My Sunday mornings rarely look like breakfast in bed and peaceful drives to church. More often than I’d like to admit, I stumble into church ten minutes late, flustered from trying to find that one missing shoe and hurrying everyone out the door. During the worship service, a flood of distractions fight for my attention—the tasks for the week ahead, the failures of the week before, and the never-ending question of what we’re going to have for dinner.
Perhaps you can relate.
But what if Sundays could be different? What if we could experience the Lord’s day for the gift it’s meant to be—a day of worship and rest? What if we arrived at church prepared and expecting to find encouragement from God’s people, joy in his presence, and true rest for our souls?
Sister, this kind of Sunday is possible for you. God did not exclude those who are busy, hurting, or raising small children from his call to Sabbath rest. Preparing our schedules and our hearts for corporate worship can enable us to be more present in our rest, worship, and fellowship with God's people. So here are five ways to prepare for Sunday worship.
We can’t prepare for worship on our own; we need the Lord’s help! So we pray. John encourages us that “…this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). We know that the Lord’s will for us is our sanctification—that we would grow to be more like Jesus (1 Thess. 4:3). So we can be confident that he will answer our prayers to work through the worship gathering for the good of his people. Here are a few ways you can pray:
Pray for yourself. Ask the Lord to soften your heart and prepare it to receive truth, encouragement, and conviction of sin. Confess your sins, your doubts, and your failures. Ask God to open your eyes to ways to love and serve with humility.
Pray for those leading and serving. Ask the Lord to empower your pastor to speak with clarity and truth. Pray that the greeters, the nursery volunteers, the tech team, and everyone else who serves would exemplify the love of Christ and be filled with joy as they serve.
Pray for the people attending. Ask God to help them see Jesus more beautifully when they exit than they did when they entered. Pray that God would sow seeds of saving faith in the hearts of the children as they sing and learn and play. Pray that God would bring hope, healing, and new life.
2. Read the Scripture your pastor will be teaching
If your church publishes the text that will be the focus of the coming Sunday’s service, spend some time studying and praying through the text. If you don’t know the passages, work back through the text from the previous week’s sermon. Look for glimpses of God's character, and ask him to reveal how he is calling you to respond in obedience.
3. Work ahead to make room for rest
If you’re anything like me, your Sunday rest may be interrupted by the urge to plan for the week ahead. And whether or not you enjoy organizing and planning, it places our focus on what we need to do instead of resting in God’s provision. So be intentional in planning for Sunday and the week ahead on Saturday. Review your calendar, clean your home, and plan your meals for the week. Finish your tasks from the week before so you can wake up Sunday with a clear mind. Consider preparing a meal that can go into the crockpot on Sunday or plan to bless your community by eating at a local restaurant and tipping generously. Try a simple charcuterie board for a low prep dinner. Use paper plates to avoid dishes. Set out clothes for yourself and your family the night before. And don’t forget to find that missing shoe!
4. Make plans to enjoy God’s gifts after Sunday worship
God’s call to rest is not meant to be a burden but a gift (Mark 2:27). So set aside time to enjoy his good gifts! Plan a post-church drive through the mountains or a picnic at a park. Make a dessert for a special Sunday tea. Set aside time to read a book or a blog you’ve had on your list for a while. And if you have small kids and rest feels out of the question, be encouraged—rest does not have to mean perfect calm and quiet. Bring out a special toy or coloring books that only come out on Sunday. Encourage them and teach them to delight in the good God who gives good gifts. It won’t feel perfect, but rest is not dependent on our circumstances but on the God who sustains us.
5. Make plans to enjoy God’s people after Sunday worship
As much as those of us who are introverts may like to deny it, worship and rest are meant to happen largely in community. The author of Hebrews calls us not to neglect meeting together but to gather to encourage one another and stir each other up to love and good works (Heb. 10:24–25). As much as possible, prioritize the corporate worship gathering on Sunday mornings. Set your alarm early enough to get ready on Sunday morning and go to sleep on time the night before. Make plans to enjoy a meal with someone after church. Sometimes it may be your own family, and sometimes it may be your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Rest for your soul
Friend, even if you're not greeted with pancakes and orange juice as Sunday morning dawns, you will be met with the mercies of God that rise anew with each morning. Even if your to-do list is a mile long or your laundry pile has formed a mountain in your living room, God does not demand perfection—he invites you to depend on him. Even if chronic pain, new baby exhaustion, or sickness limit your ability for physical rest, God promises a rest that is greater. Rest from striving to be good enough. Rest from the illusion that you must hold your life together. Do you hear him calling?
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Meet the Author
Joanna Kimbrel is a Bible teacher and writer with a passion for sharing the beauty of God’s Word with others, and she serves as content coordinator for The Gospel Coalition. Joanna and her husband Chad have two daughters and are members of Sojourn Community Church in Woodstock, Georgia. You can follow her on Instagram.