Imagine the scene: you are fresh out of Sunday school and you are catching up with your friend in the church foyer. Maybe you have already made your way into the auditorium and you are greeting the newest visitor. You are asking them where they are from, how they heard about the church, and maybe even inviting them to come to one of the discipleship groups that meet during the week.
You hear the first note played on the piano. You know instantly, I have five minutes before the service starts. You just keep on visiting. You look up and see some child run past you, grateful that it wasn’t yours running down the aisle. The next thing you know, the pastor is getting up to call the church to worship, and you still have not found your seat. You scramble to get to your chair just in time to open your Bible or look up to see the first words pop up on the screen. Does this scene sound familiar?
Have you ever stopped to wonder what the purpose of the prelude is? Have you ever wondered what purpose the music plays?
In our culture, music often acts simply as a filler. It is on in the background, but we are not really paying much attention to the substance of it. It just fills in the blank space between talking or our moving between one task to another. There is nothing wrong with this in itself. But we also know that music can do so much more. The music played during the prelude serves a purpose—it is not a simple add on.
A musical prelude is not just a sound that reminds us something important is about to happen; rather, it reminds us that it is time to prepare ourselves for that something. This is why we can’t neglect the prelude.
There are at least three opportunities that a prelude provides for us as worshipers.
The Prelude Provides an Opportunity for the Right Heart Posture
The corporate worship service is the highlight of the week for Christians. It is a foretaste of eternity. When the prelude starts, this is a time to set our affections on things above (Col 3:1). We are about to enter boldly into the throne room of grace (Heb 4:16). This is not something that we do lightly. We would never just skip into the throne room of a king. No, we would enter with reverence, with a humble heart. How much more so should we enter the throne room of God with reverence, awe, and humility?
The prelude provides us an opportunity to position our hearts with the right spiritual posture. Instead of finishing your conversation with that mom about your children’s academic prowess and rushing to get your seat, I would suggest taking the five minutes of the prelude to set your heart on what is about to take place over the next hour—that of entering into the very throne room of God.
The Prelude Provides an Opportunity for the Right Hand Posture
Not only do our hearts need to be ready for worship, but so do our hands. If you are like many others who are rushing in right before worship begins, your hands are likely filled with things. They may be filled with your electronic gadgets, your children’s take-home sheets from Sunday school, your purse, or even your child. Trying to get our hands empty and ready to open the Bible or the church hymnal is often a chore, because you have to find a place for all of your stuff, not paying attention to the worship service that is before you.
Rather than facing a chaotic beginning to the service, let me suggest that as soon as the music starts, you and your family find your seats, find a place to neatly place your things, and as you prepare your heart for worship, prepare your hands as well.
The Prelude Provides an Opportunity for the Right Head Posture
If you are anything like me, you often have a hundred things going through your head at once. The Lord has given us the ability to multitask, and that is a wonderful blessing. However, this skill can also distract us as well. If you are a woman, you might be thinking about what you are cooking for lunch. If you are a man, you might be thinking about the work project you have due on Monday. There is much that is good that can distract us from what is great.
The prelude gives us the opportunity to settle our focus and to be able to fully engage in the renewing of our minds through worship. Worship is not a mindless exercise. We need to be able to fully engage our minds in worship. Corporate worship is one of the primary places where our minds are renewed. Our heads must have the right posture entering into worship, or we will not glorify God as we ought, nor receive the spiritual renewal that he offers. The prelude gives us the opportunity to do this—to get our minds set on the things above instead of the things of this world.
The next time you hear the prelude begin on the Lord’s Day, I hope this gentle reminder will be ringing in your heat: the music being played to help you prepare. It can help you prepare your heart, your hands, and your head for worship.
The Lord is worthy of our full and undivided attention. He is worthy of our preparation, and the prelude provides a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Don’t neglect that opportunity. Instead use it as a spiritual appetizer in preparation for the feast of your Lord’s Day worship.