“What makes a good act of worship?” That was the question I asked as we began our seminar last Saturday looking at the various aspects of our services – in particular, the readings and the intercessions.

It was interesting that all three groups who discussed this question came up with the importance of preparation. No matter how good the worship is, if we are not prepared to meet with the living God, then we will not receive. Unless of course God chooses to surprise us – which he sometimes does in spite of ourselves!

I suggested at the time that preparation for worship consists of three things:

– a desire to meet with God.
– an expectancy that God will meet with us.
– an openness to our fellow believers.

The more I have thought about this issue of preparation, the more I have started thinking about the whole issue of renewal. In some Christian circles “renewal” is a buzz word. “Lord, bring renewal”, “Lord, renew your church!” Now of course it is right that we pray for renewal. This country needs a renewed and revived church, and has done for several generations or more. But abstract prayers for renewal aren’t, I think, going to be the answer. We have to be bold enough and humble enough as we gather in worship to pray, “Lord, renew us”.

It’s no use desiring renewal unless we want the Lord to renew us.

It’s no use expecting renewal unless we expect the Lord to renew us.

It’s no use praying for renewal unless we want to renew and restore our relationships with our fellow believers.

And let’s be clear what renewal means. When we renew a library book, we are allowed to keep it for another few weeks. When we renew our season ticket, we can watch our football team for another year.

Renewal in a spiritual sense is not like that. It is about being open to the ongoing, permanent change of the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus. Whatever the cost to ourselves.

Dare we pray for renewal like that?

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