Paul gives a very solemn warning about preparing to take Communion: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” (1 Cor 11:27-32)
So remember that spiritual self examination is vital. On Saturday evening (or some time before communion) ask yourself questions such as these:
- Have I been ashamed of or denied any part of the Faith?
- Have I been careless or irreverent in public or private worship? Have I neglected my prayers? Have I omitted to read my Bible? Have I used any bad or irreverent language?
- Have I kept Sunday holy by giving worship the first place on that day?
- Have I neglected any duty of my daily life?
- Have I failed in my duty at home?
- Have I in any way broken the law of the land?
- Have I been angry or bad tempered?
- Have I in any way been impure?
- Have I been proud, vain, or conceited?
- Have I been just and true and honest in all my dealings?
- Have I been perfectly truthful? or have I been deceitful in any way?
- Have I slandered or spoken evil of any one?
- Have I set my heart on anything which it is not God’s will for me to have’1 Have I fallen into my besetting sin?
- Have I faithfully performed any Church work I have undertaken?
- Have I received Holy Communion without preparation or thanksgiving?
- Have I neglected to do good by giving money or doing some other good deeds?
- Have I anything against anyone? (Make sure you forgive them and, if possible, put things right before the Service).
Realise the greatness of each sin and confess it. You may wish to say a Psalm of penitence e.g. Psalm 51 or Psalm 130 (R.S.V). Determine with God’s help not to fail in the same ways again. Then you could say the prayer “We do not presume to come to this your table.” (Substituting “I”, “me” for “we”, “us” and “our”). I suggest you write out the questions and this prayer:
I do not presume
to come to this your table, merciful Lord,
trusting in my own righteousness,
but in your manifold and great mercies.
I am not worthy
so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you are the same Lord
whose nature is always to have mercy.
Grant me therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ
and to drink his blood,
that my sinful body may be made clean by his body
and my soul washed through his most precious blood,
and that I may evermore dwell in him, and he in me. Amen.
Then think quietly about Communion — the broken bread and the wine — representing His tortured Body and His shed Blood — for you, and for the sins you have just confessed. Maybe you will then go on to read the Epistle and Gospel.
Arrive early at the service, pray and be quiet — thinking along the same lines as in your preparation. Don’t hurry at the Communion Rail. Visualise the agony of Christ for you. If you have a long time to wait whilst all communicate you could pray for the people you see in Church.
With this sort of approach, Holy Communion can become the important and precious service which it should be for us all.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction