Our weekly church bulletin contains four different silent prayer suggestions for the portion of the service when we come to the Lord’s Table to receive the Lord’s Supper, which our church does on a weekly basis. I find these helpful because many times I’m left wondering what I should be doing while waiting for people to take the Lord’s Supper. One of the lines in one of the prayers caught my attention:
I come to this table on the basis of your merit only and not my own.
Through many years of church experience, when taking the Lord’s Supper, I’ve routinely been encouraged to focus primarily on searching my heart for any wrongdoings or attitudes or broken relationships. I’ve been reminded that if I have any unresolved conflicts or undealt-with sin, I should refrain from taking the Lord’s Supper. This idea is taken from 1 Cor 11:27-29:
So then, 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. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
This has always puzzled me. What if I miss something? What if I search my heart with all my might for any wrongdoings, but my search is incomplete? Does that mean I risk taking the Lord’s Supper in vain and being potentially subject to God’s judgment and that I may have offended God for receiving the Lord’s Supper with an impure heart? We all have broken relationships with people, and many of them remain unresolved. Many require years to resolve and heal. Are we then to refrain until these conflicts are done and over with? Will we ever be completely pure, without any “overlooked sin,” enough to come to the Lord’s Supper in this kind of “worthy” way? What exactly was going on in Corinth that Paul set aside this special rebuke for them that wasn’t raised with any other church to which he wrote?
The mistake of the Corinthian believers wasn’t that they hadn’t cleansed themselves enough, or that they’d spent an inadequate amount of time in self-reflection. Rather, their fault was that they were an overwhelmingly self-absorbed bunch in partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper had simply become their supper (vv. 20-21):
So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.
Paul’s tough words in 1 Cor 11 are not a universal admonition to spend a prolonged period of self-examination before taking the Lord’s Supper. They are a rebuke against a church that had effectively taken the Lord out of the Lord’s Supper by simply making it a self-centered gluttonous first-come, first served buffet line!
So this prayer I came across got my attention because it’s a wonderful refocusing on the proper point and basis for coming to the Lord’s Table. Being worthy of the Lord’s Supper doesn’t depend on how well I vet myself of any wrongdoing or faults. My worthiness for this beautiful sacrament is what Christ has done for me through the cross to make me worthy. The beauty of this truth is that it is not about me but about Christ. He has invited me and enabled me to come. I no longer have to be plagued by whether I’m worthy to come or whether I’ve done enough to come. What a blessed truth, and one that makes the Lord’s Supper even more wonderful. Instead of a weekly cause for worry, it becomes a weekly rejoicing in His grace, His generosity and His goodness toward us in the gospel!