How do I prepare for the Lord’s Supper?

It is sometimes said, ‘the way we spend our Saturday evening will affect the way we honour the Lord the following day’. Perhaps we might further add, the way we spend our week will affect the way we honour the Lord on a Sunday morning. It is of vital importance that when we attend the Lord’s Supper we do so with our hearts fully prepared to worship Him, hearts which have been preparing throughout the week. Without this we risk ‘not discerning (or “distinguishing”) the Lord’s body’, a serious matter indeed. This subject is taught in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 verse 28 and will be discussed later.

Before we consider how we might best prepare for the Lord’s Supper, we should remind ourselves what the purpose of the gathering is. Believers gather to remember Him, 1 Cor. 11. 24-25, and proclaim His death for us until we meet Him in the air, 1 Cor. 11. 26. This meeting is called the Lord’s Supper, 1 Cor. 11. 20, as it draws attention to the authority of the One whom we come to worship and remember; it is His supper. It is also called the Breaking of Bread, Acts 2. 42; 20. 7, which describes the simplicity of what we do. We break the bread (a symbol of His body given for us), we drink the cup (a symbol of His blood shed for us) and we do so together (a symbol of the fellowship we share with Him and each other). In the Gospels you have its institution, Matt. 26. 26-30; Mark 14. 22-26; Luke 22. 19-20, in Acts its practice, Acts 2. 42; 20. 7, and, in the Epistles, its doctrine, 1 Cor. 10. 16-17; 11. 23-34.

Why then is this gathering so important? Firstly, to remember Him in this way is an act of obedience; He has asked us to do this, Luke 22. 19. Secondly, the book of Acts indicates that this gathering had real prominence in believers’ lives and it should be no different for us. For example, it was the first thing the believers did every week, Acts 20. 7, and the apostle Paul even waited seven days in order to attend the Lord’s Supper at Troas, Acts 20. 6. Finally, the Lord’s Supper is a meeting of reverence or worship and provides an opportunity and a responsibility (cf. Heb. 13. 15) to offer our appreciation of Him. If we have nothing to offer, it suggests we do not have much appreciation of Christ, which will affect our daily Christian living.

Given its importance, there are three ways in which we should prepare for the Lord’s Supper. Prepare to be present, prepare to participate and prepare to partake (of the emblems – see later for a definition).

Preparing to be Present

You might consider this a strange statement to make, and, granted, the Lord’s Supper is one of the best attended gatherings, nevertheless, prepare to be there! In the early days of the church, believers built their lives around the meetings of the local church, not the meetings around their lives! The 3,000 new converts in Jerusalem ‘continued steadfastly’ in ’breaking of bread’, Acts 2. 42, that is they ‘gave constant attention to’ or ‘attended continually’ the Lord’s Supper. They were also most particular about studying the word of God, joining with each other in the Lord’s work and attending the prayer meeting too! They persisted in all the features of assembly life. It was important to them. What about us?

We should also remember that the supper is His, and He is Lord. We are gathering in His name and, as such, we must prepare to attend in a manner which is dignifying and fitting for His presence, Matt. 18. 20. There should be an aspect of reverence about the way we speak and act. What will you wear that is compatible with this? I’m sure you remembered your mobile phone, but what about your Bible? Is the mobile switched off? Would you be thinking in that way if you could physically see His presence? Are we prepared to be present?

Prepare to Participate

We must continually remember that all present are expected to participate at the Lord’s Supper. Some will take part audibly (brothers), some inaudibly (sisters). Some will pray, others will read the word of God, others will give out a hymn (by the way, it’s good to get to know the hymn book!). It is the collective responsibility of the gathered believers to worship and we should therefore all be preparing to participate.

There is a beautiful illustration of this in Deuteronomy chapter 26. Here, the Israelites were to offer the first-fruits of their harvest to the Lord, the best of which would have been selected at home. It is this that was considered worthy to offer to God. [For further comments on this passage I highly recommend reading David Newell’s notes in Letters to a New Believer, pp. 76-77]. In the same way, we too should be collecting and selecting the meditations of the Lord Jesus we have enjoyed throughout the week so we can offer our appreciation of Him.

Whatever we do bring it must be Christ centred and Christ glorifying. We are there to remember Him. The Lord Jesus said, ‘This do in remembrance of me’, Luke 22. 19, that is, we should be actively ‘calling Him to mind’. Every hymn, every prayer and every reading should be focused on Him. Often, younger believers are worried about whether their meditation fits with the ‘theme’ of the meeting. Praise God, every Lord’s Supper has only one theme, and it is always Him. If it’s about Him then it fits!

So what of Christ can we bring to remembrance? Many times scripture exhorts us to remember and much of this can be applied to our remembrance of Christ. For example, we can remember His Name, Ps. 20. 7, His works, cf. 1 Chr. 16. 12, His love, S. of S. 1. 4, His sufferings, Lam. 3. 19-20, His resurrection and ascension, cf. 2 Tim. 2. 8 and the words He spoke, Acts 20. 35.

With regard to His name, we could meditate upon the fact that He is called the Alpha and Omega, Rev. 8, the Author of Salvation, Heb. 5. 9, the Almighty, Rev. 1. 8, the Arm of the Lord, Isa. 53. 1, the Angel of the Covenant, Mal. 3. 1, the Ark of the Lord, Josh. 3. 3, the Advocate, 1 John 1, the Anchor of Hope, Heb. 6. 19, the altogether Lovely, S. of S. 5. 16, the Amen, Rev. 3. 14, and the All in All, Col. 3. 11 to name but a few ‘A’s!

Recently I have been meditating on the Lord Jesus as the Balm of Gilead, Jer. 8. 22. Gilead was a place renowned for its medical care. The Balm of Gilead was something physicians used to cure disease and sooth pain. In Jeremiah chapter 8, verse 22, God laments over the spiritual condition of His people and speaks of the Healing Balm available in Gilead. That balm is Christ! He is the Healing Balm for the brokenhearted and bruised, Luke 4. 18, 8. 43; 10. 34, for the bereaved, Luke 7. 13-15, for the blind, John 9, for all believers, Isa. 53. 5; 1 Pet. 2. 24 and yet there was no healing available for Him at Calvary. By His stripes we are healed.

Truly, the Lord Jesus is unsearchable and His riches unlimited, Eph. 3. 8. There is still much we could say of prophecies, predictions, pictures, parables and miracles! Quite clearly, there is no excuse for not being prepared with ‘precious ointment’ to pour at His feet.

Prepare to Partake (of the emblems)

Finally, and most solemnly, we must all prepare to partake of the emblems at the Lord’s Supper. When I use the expression the emblems I am referring to the symbols of the bread and the cup as they are symbolic emblems. 1 Cor. 11. 27-29 states that before we partake of the emblems we must ‘examine’ (‘test’ or scrutinize’) ourselves. It is an extremely serious matter to merely turn up at the Lord’s Supper with un-confessed sin in our lives or disagreements and divisions with other believers damaging our fellowship and unity.

If this is the case then we are taking the emblems ‘unworthily’ or in the wrong condition. To put it another way, we are treating the emblems and the Person they represent with dishonour and indifference by pretending we are holy in life and in harmony with each other. Such a person would be ‘guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ and has not ‘discerned’ His body.

Praise God, grace is available! Before we come to the Lord’s Supper we are to self-examine our lives, confess any hidden sins to God and put any quarrels with fellow believers right with a view to partaking, ‘so let him eat’. These things are not an excuse to stay away!

May God continue to encourage and challenge us with regard to how we prepare to remember the Lord Jesus. It is one of the greatest privileges afforded to believers to gather together with Him and consider His glorious Person until He comes, 1 Cor. 11. 26.