I’ve been off the preaching schedule at our church for the past month. It’s been a good break with some additional time for extra study and a vacation with my wife. But after a few weeks I’m always ready to get back in the pulpit, and I’m looking forward to a summer full of the privilege of preaching.
Preaching is a privilege. It’s also an immense responsibility. Those of us who are called to preach do so “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). That pressure is far too great for any man on his own, which is why every man who stands before God’s people to proclaim God’s Word must do so in utter dependance upon God himself.
Nothing fosters dependance like prayer. When we pray for anything we are admitting that we cannot face life by ourselves. We are pleading for God to intervene, to act as only he can, and to glorify his name through us. This is why prayer is absolutely essential for preaching. My study and my writing and my speaking cannot do anything of real value unless God shows up. Pastors who believe this will pray for their preaching. And churches full of people who believe this will pray for their preachers.
For as long as I can remember I’ve prayed through “A Minister’s Preaching,” a prayer from The Valley of Vision, before stepping into the pulpit. It captures so much of what I hope for the preaching at our church, and it focuses my heart in a profound way. I’ll be praying this on Sunday morning, and maybe if you’re also preaching you’ll do the same. Or, if you’re going to sit under preaching this week here’s something you can pray for your pastor:
My Master God, I am desired to preach today, but go weak and needy to my task;
Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth, that an honest testimony might be borne for thee; Give me assistance in preaching and prayer, with heart uplifted for grace and unction.
Present to my view things pertinent to my subject, with fullness of matter and clarity of thought, proper expressions, fluency, fervency, a feeling sense of the things I preach, and grace to apply them to men’s consciences.
Keep me conscious all the while of my defects, and let me not gloat in pride over my performance. Help me to offer a testimony for thyself, and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting thy mercy.
Give me freedom to open the sorrows of they people, and to set before them comforting considerations.
Attend with power the truth preached, and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.
May thy people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted, and help me to use the strongest arguments drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings, that men might be made holy.
I myself need thy support, comfort, strength, holiness, that I might be a pure channel of thy grace, and be able to do something for thee; Give me then refreshment among thy people, and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way, or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a redeemer, or be harsh in treating Christ’s death, its design and end, from lack of warmth and fervency.
And keep me in tune with thee as I do this work.1
- Arthur Bennett, The Valley Of Vision: A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975). 191. ↩