The Elements of Public Worship – IV
The Attentive Hearing of the Word
Q. 160: What is required of those that hear the word preached?
A. 160: It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine: What they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives. – The Westminster Larger Catechism Q & A 160.
The Worship of God is not something that the Pastor does on behalf of the congregation; rather it is the responsibility of all God’s people to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth. A critical part of our right worship of the Lord is the attentive hearing of His Word preached. Not only are we to hear that word preached, but it is our duty to receive the sermon with joy in our hearts and then strive to diligently apply what we hear to our lives. If the Word of God does not touch us, if it merely “goes in one ear and out the other,” as the saying goes, then we have strong evidence that our faith is an empty profession.This is what the Apostle James meant when he wrote: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
God’s people not only have a duty to attentively hear the word on Sunday morning; they should also be preparing themselves to hear that word through personal prayer and the study of the Scriptures. Often when we say, “I didn’t get much out of that sermon”, the real reason for that is that we didn’t put much into that sermon. Should we really expect to be captivated by something that, through our lack of preparation, we are totally unprepared to receive? Our own preparation to hear the Word can make even the plainest sermon into a veritable feast as we gain new insight into God’s Word. By contrast, if we are unprepared, even the greatest sermonic banquet can leave us empty and unsatisfied. We should also remember to “digest” what we have received by further prayer and meditation afterwards.