Last time I spoke mainly to pastors about making a place for God’s Presence in church services. In this post, I’ll share some simple, practical ways we can invite God into our gatherings — whether church services, home fellowships, or prayer groups.
Develop a habit of expecting God to meet with you. God loves expectant hearts! He might still visit His Presence in your group if you are not expecting Him to, but if you aren’t looking for Him, you might not notice when He first starts manifesting Himself. You could unintentionally shut down the worship right when it’s beginning to cook — because you aren’t paying attention.
Prepare a place for God to show up. Most of the time, it doesn’t just happen. God likes to be entreated to come. We let Him know that He is valued above all else. My husband and I lead a couple of prayer groups in our home, and we definitely feel the responsibility of preparing the way in prayer and worship before people ever get there. We’ve done the same when we led prayer groups in church settings. Here are some ways we prepare a place for the Lord:
1. We fast.
2. We minimize distractions and appointments on days when our prayer gatherings are happening, so that our minds are fixed on the Lord.
3. We plan the worship music for the gathering ahead of time. We don’t have the luxury of a worship leader, so we use music from CDs. This really can work well! But we don’t just throw something together, or play whatever we feel like hearing. We ask the Lord, “What would you like to hear tonight?” I put together a playlist which has been thought out and prayed into. It is worth the time and effort.
4. We begin to prepare an atmosphere of the Lord’s Presence before the other people arrive. Usually, we spend a half hour or more worshiping and praying together, just the two of us. We entreat the Lord to be among us, to make everyone’s heart sensitive to Him, to move among us in the gifts of the Spirit, and to help us be of one heart and mind with Him and with each other. In a church setting, this time of preparing the way for the Lord could be accomplished by church staff joining in prayer and worship together, or an intercessor team, or both.
Preparing for His Presence to come down in the corporate gathering is a lot like a farmer getting his field ready for planting. If he doesn’t do the preliminary plowing and harrowing, sowing the seed will not produce much of a crop.
Teach the people you lead to expect God to show up. Encourage them to prepare a place in their hearts ahead of time to meet God in worship. Creating expectancy in your congregation or group is huge. We encourage our group to fast and pray ahead of time, if possible.
We suggest that, prior to coming, they ask God to give them something to contribute to our meeting. If He does, fine. If He doesn’t give them anything, He probably will sometime during our evening together, because they have prepared their hearts to receive from Him.
We encourage them to spend the ride to our gathering focusing on the Lord, so that they come with reverent hearts, ready to encounter Him. When people thoughtlessly blow into a meeting, it takes longer for them to attune their hearts to the Lord. It affects the ability of the whole group to focus on worship when some of us are distracted and unprepared.
Keep worship as the priority. It is not a preliminary to the sermon or prayer meeting. It is the most important part of the gathering — because honoring God comes above all else. Derek Prince once said, “Worship is not an appendix to the Christian life; it is not a little addition to services. It is the culmination.”
We have had people join our group who were impatient to get past worship and dive right into prayer. They wanted to immediately get to the “doing” of intercession, without taking time “being” in their relationship with the Lord. We have always resisted that, and we always will. We’ve taught them that honoring God is more important than petitioning Him, and that when we do intercede, our prayers will be much more Spirit-targeted (and therefore more effective) if we worship first.
When people connect with the Lord through Presence-oriented worship, their bodies and emotions often get healed during that time of adoring Him. Worship tenderizes people’s hearts so that they can better hear what God wants to speak to them through preaching, teaching, and the prophetic gifts. Worship is the entrance into whatever genuine Kingdom activities any of us do.
United Pursuit has a song with the words, “We’re not in a hurry, when it comes to Your Presence, when it comes to Your Spirit, when it comes to Your Presence ….” That’s where we’re at, and that, I believe, is why we experience the Lord’s Presence, week after week.
Next time, I’d like to provide some practical ideas for worship leaders for how to bring the Presence of God into the gatherings they lead.