5 Ways to Prepare for Communion


Every family has traditions they celebrate, and some traditions are the same as those practiced in other families while some are unique to their family. Similarly, churches have certain practices they share with other churches and others that may differ from other individual churches or branches of churches. One area in which you will find different traditions among churches is communion. For example, churches use different terms for it (communion, Lord’s Supper, and/or Eucharist), differ in their explanation of its meaning and significance, and distribute and partake of the elements in assorted ways. One of the most obvious ways the practice of communion varies from church to church is the frequency: some celebrate communion each week and at every service while others will do it with less frequency, perhaps once a month or once every quarter. At Faith Church, we celebrate communion around once a month, but not a set week of the month (e.g., 1st Sunday of the month). A related custom in our church is to announce in advance when we will be celebrating communion (typically noting it in the service the week before).

This announcement is not just to remind those who have to make physical preparations for this celebration, but to encourage all people to be ready for it. Because it is a sacred and significant occasion, we want people to prepare their hearts so they might receive it in a rightful manner (on why this is so important, read 1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Here are five suggestions on how to prepare to receive communion. 

1. Examine Your Heart For Areas of Sin
We should examine our hearts, searching for places where we may be following our own desires rather than God’s way. This involves taking inventory of our life to see if we have disobeyed God in words, thoughts, or actions or if we have not done what God has told us to do. It is really searching, perhaps using the words of Psalm 139:25-26 as a prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” While such introspection should be done on a regular basis, there is also a place for more thorough reflection so that you might uncover deeper places that might not surface on a daily examination. The ultimate goal of this examination is not to feel guilty about your sin, but rather to be able to see the power of God’s grace in a new way, particularly at the communion table, by seeing the guilt of your sin and how Christ erases it. So, search your heart for places of sin to prepare yourself for communion.

2. Reconcile with Those You Have Sinned Against
This time of examination may reveal a need to reconcile with someone you have sinned against. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus says if you have done something against them, you are called to make it right – not wait for them to confront you on it. While these words refer to the practice of sacrifice, it does not seem an illogical leap to apply it to communion as well. Therefore, not only should we confess our sins to God in preparation to receive communion, but we should also confess and ask for forgiveness from others whom we have sinned against.

3. Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against You
We are also called to forgive those who have sinned against us. Jesus teaches this idea in the Sermon on the Mount, as he says in the Lord’s Prayer, “. . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). In order to experience the promise of forgiveness of sins that is found in communion – as Jesus declared in Matthew 26:28 that the cup “is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” – we must forgive others. Whom do you need to forgive this week?

4. Seek Unity
One of the issues that Paul rebukes the Corinthian church for in terms of their practice of communion was the existence of divisions in the church (see 1 Corinthians 11:18-19). The existence of such divisions is especially unfitting at this time as it is meant to be a time of unity, something shown both in the name and in the fact that we partake of “one loaf” or the same elements (see 1 Corinthians 10:17); many churches even all eat and drink at the same time as a way to show this unity. Preparing for communion should cause us to think about whether divisions exist within our church body and if we are letting these differences get in the way of standing united in Christ. If you see disunity, how can you rectify it? Perhaps it is through seeking reconciliation or offering forgiveness, focusing on the things that unite us, or recognizing that areas of disagreement are relatively minor and should not threaten relationships. In these times of such strong division in our world, are you coming to communion in a spirit of unity with your fellow believers?

5. Expect To Be Nourished in Christ
We also need to remember the bread and cup are not for our physical needs, but are given by God to nourish us spiritually. It appears the people in the Corinthian church were coming to communion to have their fill of bread and wine (see 1 Corinthians 11:21, 34), and Paul tells them not to partake because they are hungry, but because they see their need for Christ and know that these elements will nourish them in Christ. The Heidelberg Catechism helpfully explains what this nourishment consists of, noting that the bread and cup serve as “visible sign and pledge, that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his true body and blood as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance, and that all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and made satisfaction for our sins “ (Q and A 79). At communion, God does something amazing – taking ordinary bread and fruit of the wine and using them for this extraordinary purpose, assuring us of the reality of our faith and forgiveness so that we might live as his ambassadors in this world! Do you expect this to happen when you receive these elements?

So, Are You Ready For This?
Communion is much more than just a small piece of bread and a little cup of juice or wine at the end of the service — it is a powerful sign and seal of God’s love for us (not just me, but us!) shown in the person and work of Jesus. May we be prepared to celebrate this truth this week by searching our hearts, asking for forgiveness, forgiving others, seeking unity with fellow believers, and expecting Jesus to nourish us in this holy moment.

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