It is vitally important to be participating fully in public worship, especially when we come to the Lord’s Table. God uses the ordinary means of grace – the Word, Sacraments, and Prayer – to communicate the benefits of redemption to His people. There is more going on in worship than we perceive; the Spirit is at work in us and upon us in each of the elements of the worship service. We are not coming to a lecture, but divine worship where God meets with and transforms His people.
Reformed worship is an integrated whole with each of the elements of the worship service building upon one another. God calls His people to worship, and His people respond to that call. Reformed worship is a response to the truth of Who God is and what He has done in creation and redemption.
This is all the more the case when we come to the Lord’s Table. Our Westminster Standards remind us that all who come to the Lord’s Table should prepare themselves to meet with Christ there by faith and commune with Him and His people at the table:
What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?
It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves, of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon Him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves. (Westminster Shorter Catechism No. 97)
So there is an individual aspect to preparing to come to the Lord’s Table, but coming to the Lord’s Table is a group, corporate activity. The Lord’s Supper, by its very nature, is a corporate act, which is reflected in it being commonly called Communion or Holy Communion. It is not communion with Christ only, but with all His people at the Table.
Sometimes we erroneously suppose the observance of the Lord’s Table conveys a benefit that can be separated from the worship service as a whole, but nothing can be further from reality. This is why Reformed Christians reject the idea of “private communion” or “virtual communion” but teach that the Lord’s Supper (i.e. Communion) can only take place within the context of gathered, corporate worship. Our Standards again emphasize this clearly, stating that to do otherwise is “contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ” (WCF 29.4).
In light of the nature of the Lord’s Supper, it should be understood that corporate worship is the culmination of one’s private preparation to commune at Christ’s Table.