Preacher, do you pray?

Have you ever stood at the pulpit, about to declare, ‘This is what God says,’ about to preach the living word of God, to souls in desperate need of his voice, and realised you’re about to pray for the preaching and hearing of the sermon for the first time?  Have your prayers for the preaching of the word grown perfunctory and superficial? 

We know prayer is good and necessary, vital to the life of the preacher.  We know, as Piper writes, ‘the proper goals of the life of a pastor [preacher] are unquestionably beyond our reach.  The changes we long for in the hearts of our people can only happen by a sovereign work of grace.’[1]  We stand in the Apostle Paul’s line and know we are not ‘sufficient for these things’ (2 Corinthians 2).  We know that prayer and word go hand in hand.  These are what the apostles devoted themselves to, appointing others to the pressing needs of widows (Acts 6).  We know.  We believe.  But we need help in our unbelief.  We need belief that drives us to wrestle in prayer, sleeves rolled up, never pushing it aside because we are busy – for ourselves, for our hearers, for our preparation, for our preaching. 

May these prayers, partly gleaned from the Apostles, the Puritans and others, on whose shoulders we stand, grow your dependence on God as you hold out the word of life and preach Jesus Christ as Lord.[2]

For ourselves – Father God, let me preach not for my glory but yours alone; let me not gloat in pride or sink in despair over my performance.  Grip and transform my heart and mind by your word of grace that I might know you more deeply and live and then preach its truths with genuine passion and conviction.  Flood my weakness with your strength, my distracting concerns with your comfort, my flaws and sinfulness with your perfection and holiness that I might not get in the way of your powerful Word.

For hearers – Father God, make them wise unto salvation through your life-giving Word.  Stir faith in Christ alone.  Give them eyes to see the beauty and sufficiency of the Lord Jesus.  Bring them to true worship.  Give them a profound hunger and thirst for righteousness and a transforming knowledge of your grace in Christ.  Speak to each one what they need to hear.  Refresh and comfort the weary.  Melt the stony hearts of the unbelieving.  Unstop the deaf ears of the lost.  Convict the wayward of sin and bring to repentance.  Awaken the attention of the lazy. 

For preparation – Father God, stir me to prayerful dependence in this work of preparation.  As I read and battle with the text, give light and understanding.  Give me words to echo your word – with depth, clarity of thought, warmth, persuasiveness, and grace to apply them to the hearts and consciences of women and men.  Help me use the strongest arguments.  Show me how to connect this word from you with the real lives of the people in the pews.  Bring to mind illustrations that will aid the deep penetration of these truths.  Give me a testimony worthy of my Redeemer.  Keep me mindful and in tune with your purpose. For preaching – Father God, please work through me, a weak vessel, to feed your sheep.  Be present in the preaching lest it be in vain.  Breathe life into these words by your Spirit.  Give me a right fervour, conviction, passion, humility and power for this, your word.  Enable me to so preach that I am forgotten and the Saviour glorified.

Janet Riley

[1] John Piper, Brothers, We are not Professionals, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2003, p 54.

[2] ‘A Minister’s Preaching’ in The Valley of Vision, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002, p 348-349

  See also, Murray Capill, Preaching with Spiritual Vigour, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2003, p 56-62

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1998, p 169-171.

DA Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992, p225-226.