Sometimes it feels like we are living in an age of prayerless and therefore relatively powerless ministry. We live in an age of increasing noise and preachers crave efficient preparation. In this post I would like to narrate the journey from passage to pulpit in terms of prayer. Maybe this can help nudge us toward the kind of preaching we all want to experience.
“What Shall I Preach?” – before the process of preparing a message can really begin, we have to select the passage or passages that we will study and preach. New preachers tend to get stuck at this stage. “Lord, give me a good sense of what they need to hear,” combined with “Father, stir my heart for Christ so I can preach out of the overflow of my own heart,” should help with picking a text or texts. If necessary add this, “Ok Lord, I’m struggling to pick, so on Tuesday evening I am going to make a choice – would you please be in that decision!”
In the study – Now it is time to turn off all distractions and get alone with God and the Bible. Your goal is to understand the text, and to meet with God personally. “My Father, please give me eyes to see the meaning of this text as you intended when you inspired it. And please give me eyes to see your heart revealed in this text. And please change my heart in the process. Give me determination to do the work necessary with the passage, and may the fruit of this study so stir and lift my heart that I am deeply changed…”
Before you move into message mode – You have the fruit of your study, and now you consciously reintroduce the listeners to your prayers again. “O Lord, I am thankful for what this text has already done in my heart, but now I pray for my listeners. I don’t love them as you do, please give me your heart for them. How can the main idea of this text be a gift from you to them this Sunday?”
Shaping the message – It is time to form and shape the message – it’s purpose, main idea, structure and detail. “Our Father, I so want this message to communicate with the hearts of my listeners. Please give me wisdom to know how I can shape this message as an act of love for them.” And as you go, detail by detail, “Lord, will Steve understand it if I put it that way?” and “Father, you know how Sarah is hurting at the moment, how can I say that sensitively for her sake?”
Delivery time – Both before and during delivery we can be praying continually, even if only in arrow prayers…“May we see you!” and “Protect us from distractions,” and “Help the guys on sound to sort that annoying hum,” and “Guard my heart heart from pride in this,” and “I feel like I’m rushing, help me pace this better,” and “Lord, John seems troubled,” and “Protect us from the evil one,” and “Lord only you can give them eyes to see the glory of your grace in this,” and “Change lives, Lord!” and so on.
Preaching is about exegesis and communication and pastoral care and evangelism and leadership and discipleship . . . but it should be preeminently about prayer.