The Best (and Most Overlooked) Way to Prepare Our Home for Guests

Guest Parking 2Written by monthly contributing writer, Kat.

We run around the house frantically cleaning, tidying, organizing and decorating. We hide things in closets, stuff them under beds and mask all our imperfections so our guests will feel comfortable in our austere house.

And we miss the point.

Perfection Is Not The Point

The goal of hospitality is to make people feel at “home.” Unless you’re having Martha Stewart over for the weekend, you’re house does not need to be perfect.

Let me say that again, your house does not need to be perfect.

Now, let’s all say that together: “My house does not have to be perfect.”

So then what do we need to do to prepare for guests?

Pray for them.

“Wow, Kat, you’re quick with the super spiritual answers today.”

Um, thanks.

I’m not trying to be cheesy or super spiritual. It’s just a fact.

A Great Attitude Is Better Than A Great Atmosphere

When you pray for your guests, you are investing in their lives and in their visit. You will have worthwhile things to talk about and ask them about because you’ve been praying for them. And as you pray God will more than likely show you ways you can bless them, encourage them and make them feel fully at home.

When we try to make everything perfect and impress our guests, their visit becomes all about us.

When we lay down our pride, pray for them and serve them in the ways that THEY need, their visit is about them and THAT’s what makes people feel loved and at home.

And the best part is, as you spend more time with the Lord, in prayer, the more He’ll help you order your days and you’ll find that keeping your home tidy gets easier. Soon enough you’ll be one of those lovely older ladies who has a home you always want to return to because it is so bathed in excellence and prayer.

**(Please note that I’m not saying that it’s useless to make any effort to tidy our home, I’m saying it should be an ever present process rather than the focus of our occasional preparations for visitors. I have felt more comfortable in an old shack inhabited by a godly woman than in a mansion perfected by a woman with less interest in me than in her clean carpets.)

How To Pray For Your Guests

Safe travel – Pray for comfort and joy as they travel.
Encouragement – Pray for wisdom on ways you can specifically encourage them.
Refreshment – Travel can be exhausting. Pray that they would feel more refreshed when they leave than when they arrived.
Connection – Pray for good conversations and meaningful memories.
Blessing – Pray for God’s grace in their lives and an ever deepening relationship with Him.

My Prayer For You

May you feel free from perfection, filled with Peace and overflowing with love for the people who make your house a home.

About Kat

Kat blogs at Inspired To Action, a site dedicated to helping moms develop the habits and skills they need to effectively manage their homes and raise children who are prepared to change the world. Kat and her husband Jimmy live the great state of Texas and have 3 children ages 7, 5 and 2. Kat loves music, running, technology, Jesus and Tex-Mex food. Not necessarily in that order.

33 Responses to The Best (and Most Overlooked) Way to Prepare Our Home for Guests

  1. Renee June 29, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Thank you SO much for this post, sister! My brother will be coming to visit from overseas for 42 days and I have been so stressed out. At first it was exciting, but now all I can think is “13 days til he gets here! How am I ever going to get everything done?” I feel like everything is spiraling out of control even though my husband and I have made tremendous progress with the preparations. I have been more anxious than I have in the past year. I even had a panic attack when I was at a busy train station (very unusual for me). I never thought about just praying for my brother. I’m sure as I pray more and learn to love him even more (as a biological brother and a brother in Christ) that he will appreciate that WAY more than a “spotless” home and a stressed out, exhausted sister. I found your blog yesterday and it has already been such a great blessing to me. I can’t wait to show my husband this article.

    In Christ,

  2. Julie April 15, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Thank you for this message… I really needed to hear this today. I am soon to be delivering our fourth child in less than five years (and living in an older house that is slowly being remodeled) and STILL feeling consumed with wanting visual perfection in my home. It wears me out to the point that I don’t even want to think about having guests in our home, because at this season in my life even basic cleanliness is hard to achieve each day!
    It is my heart, not my home, that needs the attention. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. Naomi April 15, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    I love this post! so simple and true and yet often overlooked. Will be putting it in to practice this weekend. Totally needed this to correct my thoughts, thanks.

  4. Jennifer April 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    THANK YOU! I so needed this today! It was such a blessing!

  5. Lacey April 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    I was really blessed by this post — thank you! My motivations in having people over are often misplaced. I want them to see what a great cook I am and how capable I am, instead of wanting to see them blessed and enriched.

    Why would I want someone to leave my home feeling inadequate when comparing themselves to me (not likely, I know)? I want them to leave feeling like they were loved and taken care of, and paid attention to. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve just never thought of it in this way before.

  6. Jenna April 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Ugh…hospitality. I am THE WORST at it. I really detest it. Just being honest. I’m a stressed-out wreck, blowing up at my husband and kids. It’s just a giant culmination of everything that I’m horrible at – keeping our house clean, prepping meals, conversation, everything. It’s my number one surefire way to have a panic attack. We never, ever have people over because it is a nightmare. I’m sorry, I know that this is all about opening up our homes to others, but this is the one area I don’t think I will ever get under control.

    • Susana April 13, 2011 at 2:11 am #

      Jenna, your words just describe me perfectly…I never thought there was another person in the world who felt the way I do. A couple of my very close relatives sort of know of my problem, but mostly I don’t tell anyone. The whole experience of having guests over gives me a panic attack too and causes me a lot of anxiety, to the point where my health has suffered. I am not at all talkative my nature and although I feel inadequate in the other areas too, it is the conversation/”entertaining” bit that I find the worst. I really don’t like talking about myself and I get into such a fluster that I can’t even think what questions to ask them, let alone remember what they told me. I’m guessing you may be a lot younger than me, so I hope you’ll gain the victory in this, before it becomes more deeply ingrained in your personality. I only say this because I know the sadness it causes me. Our home is a lonely and quiet place these days and my heart breaks for the fun times that could have been, the beautiful memories that could have been, that my only child has missed out on. As you said it it not an area that we can “get under control ourselves”, get others to pray for you, if you want to be different. The devil wants to sap us of all joy and destroy us. I hope you will never have to struggle with this as long as I have. It is like a cancer that spreads and affects other areas of your life, including other people. It works to isolate and make friendship difficult. Please read Terry’s beautiful prayer that she said for me and pray it for you.

      • Terry April 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

        You have no idea how encouraging it is for me to know that in praying for you, I would both bless you, and open a means for you to bless others also.
        Thank you. I confess, I was struck by the transparency of your post and just reflexively prayed for you. Then the Spirit said, “tell HER”. So I did. I have learned that, “where the Spirit of The Lord is, there is peace” and so, can only be credited with obedience.
        My daughter-in-law is really to blame, she linked the post to her f/b page and I read it and the replies and, well, you know the rest. f/b for me is mostly a way to stay in close touch with our adult children without interfering. Sometimes her goofy little links just touch my heart, so I read them and pray for our kids.
        My wife and I (yes, I am the GUY in the relationship- a 52yr old pastor from Washington) pray together each morning and it was a “natural” for me to bring her in on this from the beginning. Prayer, we can do. We will keep praying for you, and those this post might bless.
        Thank you again,
        Terry (with a Y like in GUY)

  7. Kathleen Jaeger April 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    Okay, I needed this before this evening as my guest sleeps peacefully in the next room. But I have gotten better about this as I am tidying to pray that they will feel welcome and comfortable. That the preparations are about them and not about making me look good. But bathing the whole thing in prayer & specifics to pray for them…nice.

  8. Susana April 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    Thank you Lauren and Terry, you cannot realise what your prayers mean to me. I have printed out your prayer, Terry, and will keep it with me, to remind me that someone is praying for me. It is very precious.

  9. Amy April 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Wow. This really struck a chord with me. I struggle to be less of a perfectionist and more hospitable, and clearly this is what I’ve been missing. Thank you for pointing out something I probably should have figured out long ago.

  10. Brandi April 12, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Loved this post, Kat. Thank you for this much needed reminder!

  11. Frances April 12, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    I need to remember this! I used to work with kids in their homes and see people’s houses as they actually were. I appreciated the honesty but my boss would snub her nose at them and say all sorts of mean things behind their backs about how dirty they were. It made me more aware of how judgemental people can be and I always panic before having guests over. Your post made me think of her and remember that if that’s the worst she could ever say about me, that’s not so bad.
    You mentioned that visiting folks can be so exhausting. Having guests can be too. One way I’m learning to deal with this is to ask for help. It appears that my guests even appreciate not being waited on hand and foot, and having something to do, like chop veggies.

  12. Ayla April 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Wonderful post! And so apt for me right now. We had company today and it was a nightmare! My house was perfect but my kids were bouncing off the walls and I was stressed out. I don’t think my visitor felt welcome at all :( I will pray next time! I know this will make a world of difference!

  13. [email protected] eco friendly homemaking April 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    Wow this was such a great post! Great tips and suggestions. We sometimes forget how important our prayers are to other people.

  14. Heather April 11, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

    thank you so much, Kat for such a refreshing and inspiring article. This is definitely going to help me as i prepare for our company coming on thursday. I usually get all stressed out trying to get things just so (and I never do reach the “perfection” that i am striving for, so then I get more stressed out), that I am too tired to truly enjoy the company. I absolutely love the idea of praying for our guests, especially the specifics that you gave! You’ve really hit a nerve here. :) Thank you!

  15. Misty April 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Wow!!!! This is very refreshing and timely for me, especially with my in-laws visiting in two weeks, for a whole week!! :-O I need to print this out and place it only fridge till they come as a reminder! Lol!
    Because this is exactly what I do, for fear of what will be thought of me and “how I take care of things”. During the visits and afterwards, I’m exhausted from trying to keep everything “perfect”! I’m overwhelmed with my ” to do” list and I’ve missed the point!
    My husband tries to tell me this but I guess It hasn’t sunk in till now and looking at my list lol! I have prayed for safe travels an a “good” visit but not the other things you listed. Thank you for that. Those are things sadly,I hadn’t thought to pray for. Thank you you so much for this!! The Lord has used you to speak this to me and other perfectionist’ here ;-) I pray the Lord will help all of us with this struggle! I know my battle with this has gone on for years but I pray for the Lord to
    forgive me for my pride and change me from this day forward!
    Because, I truly want family and friends to feel at home and, loved in our home!!

  16. Alicia April 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    There is one family who had my family over many times and offered hospitality. I remember the first time I noticed some messiness that I would have “gotten rid of” before my guests arrived. I had such a great time with a generous, loving family, that shows loving concern for everyone. They served there guests and cared more about spending time with us then about getting everything picked up before or while we were there. They focused on us and have shared so much Christ like love with us that I just love that they don’t let clutter get in the way of hospitality. I need to grow in this area! And pray more for my guests!

  17. juliet April 11, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    I just want to throw in some things that I learned these past 5.5 yrs of being married and hosting. Being a good hostess is like learning to cook, it comes with time and practice. I started with inviting family first, people who I know will not judge me and will forgive and forget if things go wrong. The more you invite, the more you learn about what worked and what didn’t. I also observe when I go to other people’s houses. I pick up things that I like and make a note to myself not to ever repeat something that I didn’t like. One great example is I always try to greet my guest at the door as a family with a sincere smile. Often times, the husband will meet the guest at the door, and the wife is huffing and puffing away in the kitchen with a frown on her face.

    Like Kat mentioned, praying is big. I admit there were many times the night was “laughed” away and the worst feeling was going to bed feeling “empty” and guilty, knowing we were not a good representative of Christ.

    About clean house now…. my husband once said early in our marriage, “we clean for our guest, why can’t we KEEP it clean for us?” Maybe some do clean their house to make guest feel comfortable, but honestly I clean before guest come to make an impression that it is always this clean at my home, because to me exposing the messiness is embarrasing. I deep clean on Fridays, because Friday nights and weekends is when we have the most visitors dropping in and I maintain it lightly over the week. I hope these few insights will be helpful to someone:)

  18. Susana April 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    This very thing is the greatest downfall of my life. I have struggled with it since we were married 17 years ago and just cannot let go. My husband is very social and I am by nature quite the opposite. You could not imagine the grief this has caused and the contention in our home. When people ask to visit us, which is very rare now, I just go into a panic. Please pray for me, I long to gain the victory in this. I still long for a joyful, hospitable home, where guests are welcome any time of day. Presently this seems like an impossible dream, only divine intervention can make me whole.

    • Lauren April 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

      Susana, I just want to let you know I’m praying right now for victory. You’re right, it may not be naturally possible for you, but anything is possible with Christ!! I just came across Luke 10:38-42 recently which also spoke to me about hospitality, and now this post as well. Kat, thank you for this post. I’ve been thinking about it and praying about it–esp. your prayer at the end! I love that! My husband and I really like to have people over, but I know I get into the whole perfection thing–sadly, even when guests are here I’ve realized how much I care about the things that don’t matter-like dirt being tracked in on the floor and crumbs on the couch. I just want Jesus’ love to pour out of me onto whoever comes into our home. Like Martha, I need to be reminded to not worry about the details and distractions, just be close with Jesus and lift others up to Him.

    • Terry April 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      Father, Susana has been caught in one of our enemy’s traps. You are the only one able to set her free. Savior, save her, please?
      Once set free, bolster her heart, replace the fear with the power, love and sound mindedness your Word declares you have given us. Whether her condemnation comes from inside her, or out; help her shut it out and only respond to the cleansing conviction of your Spirit. She hears You, or she wouldn’t be crying out for Your help! Help her hear and obey only Your loving voice. Remind her of your love.
      She needs Your help to plan for starting very small and very short so that she can build one success upon another and EVENTUALLY reach full polish on her mirror. Reflecting You fully in Your hospitality, in her life.
      Correct her when she tries to do it all at once. Remind her of Your love. By Your Spirit convince her that she is Your CHILD, and as such needs to GROW into your shoes. Needs to try, then learn, so she can become more like You with every attempt.
      Move mightily in the life of Your son (her husband.) Teach him how to be yoked with Susana in loving, considerate ways. Remind her of Your love. By Your Spirit, convince him of and engage him in every help she needs (that he can be a channel of) to grow in hospitality.
      Your glory is at stake here. Bring Jesus the glory of the change You have brought and are bringing in Susana’s life. Burn for Your glory, Father. Shine, Jesus, shine in her life for the Father’s sake. Work Spirit, to transform Your daughter into the mirror of Your glory that You desire.
      I ask, in the name and authority of Jesus.

  19. Heather April 11, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    What a wonderful way to look at hospitality. This was very helpful to me, in reminding me why we do it, not just to entertain. Thanks for the nudge to get in gear, even though things aren’t perfect (nor will they be with a family of 7!)

  20. Angela Alford April 11, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    I recently had 10 ladies over my house for desserts and coffee and I was thanked for being a ‘Real Women’ all because I had dishes piled up in my sink when they arrived. As she said that sweet thing I remembered a time when dishes in the sink went in a laundry basket to hide in a closet. Oh, how I have changed.

  21. Amanda April 11, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Thank you for this important reminder! Especially this: “When we try to make everything perfect and impress our guests, their visit becomes all about us.” I often get so stressed out about hosting guests, because of pride. I’m dealing with morning sickness now and am slowly learning to get over myself and have people over even when the dishes are piled up! I agreed to host Easter awhile ago, and have been regretting it… now I’m going to start praying about it! :) Blessings.

  22. Brittany April 11, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    SO true!

  23. Daniella April 11, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Thank you! SO true that this is the most important part, but the one I forget the most in the stress of cleaning and worrying over what they will think of me or the state of our house! good words!

  24. stacey April 11, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    this is so very true! when guests are coming, whether for dinner or for the weekend, i find myself thinking, “oh, i need to get this project and that project done before they come.” i put so much effort on making my home perfect that by the time they get there, i’m tired and frazzled. then i feel bad that i’m not a better hostess. what a cycle!

    i really like your thoughts on praying for them. as bad as this sounds, i’ve never thought of that before! i’m always trying to make my house magazine-perfect so i’m not even thinking about them.

    thanks for the different focus to company coming! :)

  25. Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy April 11, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    So true! Thanks for the reminder!

  26. Jaime April 11, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    This is so true!

    We try to make it a practice to pray before company arrives. Usually our prayer is centered around helping us be a blessing to the family, and that they would leave our home more peaceful and inherently joyful than when they arrived. We pray that if they are having marriage problems, God would somehow use our marriage as a testimony and encouragement to them.

    We often forget to pray, though, when it’s immediate family members coming over since they come over more often and it’s more comfortable – I need to remember to do this for them, too!


  27. Joy April 11, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    What a refreshing idea! You are so right that when we run around cleaning, it really is all about US. We may be thinking we’re doing it for them, but really, we’re doing it for us—so that they will be impressed, like us, not criticize our cleanliness, etc. Praying for meaningful conversations and blessings in their lives–wow! Great article.

  28. Marleah April 11, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    Thanks for this post! I especially appreciated the practical suggestions for ways to pray for guests. I don’t think I’ve ever considered that a part of hospitality is to pray for the people that are coming, but this is a great way to prepare and minister to them…even if they never find out about it. :)

  29. Angela Palmer April 11, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    Thank you, this post was very helpful. I’ve been waiting until we could afford to finish our renovations to invite people over but I should probably just go ahead and do it – it has been so many months since we’ve caught up (and this is family!)