In a paper presented at the the Evangelical Homiletics Society, Michael Quicke observed, “The more casual and unprepared that listeners are as they come to worship the less likely they are to experience God. All worshipers, preacher included, should make space and time for genuine prayers of preparation. “Who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully” (Ps 24:3,4). Snatched seconds of perfunctory routine before worship smothers spiritual possibilities within worship. “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:21) and be sensitive to God who is spirit. Spiritual insensitivity to God beforehand can condemn to spiritual insensitivity during worship. The outcome is a Unitarian utilitarianism – preachers “do their own thing” which may or may not have any relevance to hearers “doing their thing.”
“Preachers need to include themselves in more rigorous practice of prayerful preparation that stills the spirit (Psalm 37:7) and raises expectation that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are involved in a spiritual happening in worship for the whole community. God’s word does not return empty. God’s seed in good soil can make an astounding difference–“bearing fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold. ” Worshipers should prepare with openness to what fruit they might bear. If you think a sermon is going to be a waste of time, nine times out of ten it will be. If you believe in an active present God anything could happen.
“Preachers have a responsibility to model sensitive preparation for worship. In the crescendo of interruptions often leading up to the service prayer should not be treated as a routine to be squeezed out by more important matters, but the foundation for prepared minds and hearts of everyone. Listeners can be encouraged to pray in the days leading up to worship by specific information. Preachers can share next week’s Scripture text and theme and ask listeners to prepare by reading and reflecting themselves as well as supporting the preacher in preparation. The more seriously preachers reflect personal conviction about the Trinitarian dynamic of worship and preaching, the more seriously listeners will prepare with them.”