How do I prepare for the Lord's Supper in a way that is helpful and not just heaping mounds of guilt upon my forgiven soul?
I want to leave you with three different helps. First is from the Westminster Larger Catechism, summarizing the Bible's teaching on this:
Q.171 - How do we prepare to receive the Lord’s supper?
A. Preparation for the Lord’s supper involves careful examination:1of the condition of our life in Christ;2 of our sins and failings;3 of whether we truly and to what degree know God,4 believe in him,5 and have repented,6 and of whether we love God and our fellow believers.7 We should have a charitable attitude toward everyone,8 including forgiveness of those who have wronged us.9 We must also assess how much we desire Christ10 and whether we are living in newness of obedience.11 Finally we must renew the practice of these graces in us12 by serious meditation13and fervent prayer.14
1. 1 Cor 11.28.
2. 2 Cor 13.5.
3. 1 Cor 5.7, Ex 12.15.
4. 1 Cor 11.29.
5. 2 Cor 13.5, Mt 26.28.
6. Zec 12.10, 1 Cor 11.31.
7. 1Cor 10.16-17, Acts 2.46-47.
8. 1 Cor 5.8, 11.18,20.
9. Mt 5.23-24.
10. Is 55.1, Jn 7.37, Lk 1.53.
11. 1 Cor 5.7-8.
12. 1 Cor 11.25-26, 28, Heb 10.21-22,24, Ps 26.6.
13. 1 Cor 11.24-25.
14. 2 Chr 30.18-19, Mt 26.26.
Second, here is a hymn you can read and sing this week. It's a poetic reminder of what the Lord's Supper is about by Horatius Bonar from a hymn called, "Upon A Life I did not Live":
1. Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity.
2. Not on the tears which I have shed,
Not on the sorrows I have known,
Another’s tears; Another’s griefs,
On these I rest, on these alone.
O Jesus, Son of God, I build on what Thy cross has done for me;
There both my death and life I read, my guilt, and pardon there I see.
3. Lord, I believe; O deal with me,
As one who has Thy Word believed!
I take the gift, Lord, look on me,
As one who has Thy gift received. (Chorus)
4. Here at thy feast, I grasp thy pledge Which life eternal to me seals, Here in the bread and wine I read The grace and peace thy death reveals. (Chorus)
5. O fulness of the eternal grace, O wonders past all wondering! Here in the hall of love and song, We sing the praises of our King (Chorus)
You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vQgk2jOESc
Mediate on the reason Jesus calls his death "food" and his blood, "drink." Because just as we need food and drink to survive physically, we need the Lord's Supper to survive spiritually. So as you prepare to eat at our King's table remember that God designed His sacrament for your spiritual health. To avoid it for long periods of time will leave you spiritually emaciated, distant and weak. We prepare by meditating on the Life lived by another, because we recognize that we need Christ's righteousness to have a seat at God's table. The goal is not to meditate only on our unworthiness, but to rest on Christ's worth on our behalf. We want to "grow in grace" by learning to value Jesus more!
Third, here is a quote from another hymn writer, John Berridge:
The more we feel our own misery, the more we learn to value Jesus; and the more we know of him, the more we shall trust in him; and the more we trust in him, the more we shall love and obey him. To know Jesus was the top of Paul's ambition, and is the joy and crown of each believer; it is the pinnacle of human glory; and, according to the Lord's own account, it is eternal life.
So pray, read and sing as you prepare to enjoy the blessings of God's grace on Sunday!