Why Prepare at All?
At a Holy Communion service, have you ever found that…
- Your attention wanders during Communion?
- The glory of Christ’s presence in the meal becomes tarnished by familiarity?
- Doubt about our actual spiritual need for this holy meal creep into your mind?
- The spiritual power of the meal becomes diluted because you don’t feel anything?
Preparing our hearts to receive Holy Communion is a delightfully serious matter. It is true that we can never be completely prepared for this great gift. It is also true that the best preparation is simply knowing that Jesus alone can provide the forgiveness we need to be right with God. Still, the reception of Communion can become routine. While we may still “believe” that God is doing something special in the Lord’s Supper, we may find that we do not hunger for it as we ought or don’t miss it when we cannot receive it.
Taking a few moments to prepare for Holy Communion can remedy these things. Besides, the Bible commands it. “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup,” directs St. Paul. Why? Because, he says, anyone who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner will be “guilty of concerning the body and blood of the Lord “, and “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks to his own judgement.” (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
The Lord’s Supper is a big deal. It is good to treat it that way.
Questions for the Heart
(adapted from Martin Luther)
Asking yourself these questions or others like them while preparing to receive Communion may help you:
- Do you believe you are a sinner?
- Yes, I believe I am a sinner.
- How do you know this?
- From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept and often cannot even remember.
- From Jesus’ commands in the Sermon on the Mount, which I regularly ignore.
- Because I do not consistently show charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control, which means I am in the way of the Holy Spirit.
- Because I assume He will forgive me instead of striving for holiness and rightly fearing His wrath.
- Because I trust my own feelings at Communion more than I trust His promise to be truly present.
- Are you sorry for your sins?
- Yes, I am sorry that I have disappointed so loving a heavenly Father.
- Yes, I am sorry driven fresh nails into Jesus by my failure to live a renewed and holy life because He died for me.
- I am sorry that since I last received Communion I have… (Think about those sins that trouble your mind, behaviors you know were displeasing to God.)
- Yes, I am sorry I have sinned against God.
… or at least, I wish I felt truly sorry.
- Why do you think you need the Lord’s Supper?
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, ESV)
- Because Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53, ESV)
- Because Jesus said, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28, ESV)
- Because “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation,” and I want to live forever. (Luther’s Small Catechism)
- Do you hope to be saved?
- Yes, that is my hope.
- In whom then do you trust?
- In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayers of Preparation
O Jesus, our great high priest, be present with us as you were present with your disciples and make yourself known to us in the breaking of bread. (Prayer 207, Lutheran Book of Worship)
We do not presume to come to this your table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your Table. But you are the same Lord whose character is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink His blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His body, and our souls washed through His most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us. Amen. (The Prayer of Humble Access)
O Lord and Master Jesus Christ our God, who alone hast power to absolve men from their sins, for Thou art good and lovest all men, forgive all my transgressions done in knowledge or in ignorance, and make me worthy without condemnation to have communion of Thy divine and glorious and pure and life-creating mysteries. Let them not be for my punishment, or for the increase of my sins. But let them be for my purification and sanctification, as a promise of the life and kingdom to come, a defense and a help and a repulsion of every evil attacker and the removal of my many transgressions. For Thou art a God of mercy and generosity and love for mankind, and to Thee we send up glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. (by John of Damascus)
Lord Jesus Christ, You call to Yourself all those who labor and are heavy burdened, to refresh them and to give rest to their souls. Dear Lord, I pray, let me also experience Your love at the heavenly feast, which You have prepared for Your children on earth. Keep me from impenitence and unbelief, so that I do not receive the Sacrament to my condemnation. Remove the spotted garment of my flesh and my own righteousness and adorn me with the garment earned by Your blood. Strengthen my faith, increase my love and hope, and hereafter make me to sit at Your heavenly table, where You give me to eat of the eternal manna and to drink of the river of Your pleasures. Hear me for Your own sake. Amen. (Based on the Lutheran Book of Prayer)