Spiritual Preparation

Part of the preparation for Communion for Roman Catholics is supposed to be confession. While this may, or may not, be consistent in modern times, that is still the recommendation and the “rule.” Protestants, of course, gave up the confessional a long time ago and as a result gave up any form of spiritual preparation to receive Communion. Spiritual preparation for Holy Communion is still important and could include a recommended period of prayer prior to Communion (always a good idea), or some form of centering ritual.

A preparation ritual was at least alluded to in the Church of England during Wesley’s lifetime. The local priest would announce the availability of Communion a week before it was to take place. If an insufficient number of people signed up to take Communion, the service was cancelled. In a like manner, when Communion started to be served in selected Methodist locations, a communicant had to have a ticket to take part. The tickets were distributed by Class leaders and it is likely that the Class meeting, replete with public confession, served as the point of spiritual preparation.

There is a documented example of how at least one early Methodist, Lady Maxwell (noted above), paid attention to the process of preparation for the Sacrament. On Friday, February 8, 1772, she was to take the sacrament in the Cannongate and after arising in the morning she “began to examine the state of" her mind and found” God was with me to bless; and in secret prayer.” Her conclusion on that Friday was that “I can truly say, my communion has been with the Father and the Son.” By Sunday, she attested, that “with a greater earnestness than ever, I desired to go to the Lord's table.” She notes further that “I went to prayer, and was enabled to plead the blood of Jesus with such prevalence for all wanted at his table, as I never remember before, and it was a truly profitable day.”

We cannot all be “Lady Maxwells,” but we can recommend a regimen of prayer so that those intending to take Communion via the web may be in an appropriate state. Remember, however, that in the Wesleyan tradition Communion can be efficacious even if we are unprepared or even unbelievers since God works independently and objectively in the sacrament. Because of this “objectivity” Wesley did not require readiness, belief, or even baptism. All these would come in due course through the power of the Holy Spirit acting through the sacrament.