Five Prayers for Every Preacher
In the midst of the countdown to Sunday, I'm learning to bathe my sermons with these five specific prayers.
Average Rating: [see ratings/reviews]
Preaching, week in and week out, can be a grind. I remember hearing Bill Hybels refer to it this way, "You can only hit the same nail for so long before it gets old." I was younger when I heard his comment, and remember thinking "I can't imagine a day when I won't be absolutely energized by getting up to preach on a Sunday morning." Now I know better. Don't get me wrong. It's a worthy endeavor and I feel undeniably called to it. But when you speak almost every week, sometimes multiple messages, it can start to wear you down. And when it does my default is to focus more on content (What do I want to say?) than on my own spiritual engagement (Who do I want to be?).
So in the midst of the countdown to Sunday, I'm learning to bathe my sermons with these five specific prayers. I wish I could tell you I pray these prayers diligently every week that I speak; I don't. But when I do, I'm better prepared to wrestle down what I think God may be prompting me to say and deliver it with power and clarity.
So allow me to humbly submit my five prayers for preachers:
My natural inclination is to pursue topics, passages, or themes I already know. It's easier to preach a new angle on a familiar concept or recycle an older sermon altogether than start from scratch. But whether I'm preaching an old idea or a new one, I need to pray "Lord, teach me what you want me to teach." Maybe another way to phrase it is "Lord, preach to me in order to preach through me."
This is easily the scariest preaching prayer to pray as it asks God to reveal the pressing issues in my own spiritual journey. I'd rather communicate without moving towards self-awareness, confession, and personal sacrifice, but to teach of God without learning anything from God is just another form of hypocrisy. "So Lord, please don't let me preach a truth I'm not living, or at least not seeking to live."
"Lead me in each moment of study. I need to sense your presence at every point in my preparation time." The good news about having a study routine is it keeps us focused and anchored in a sustainable rhythm. But here's on potential pitfall of working off such a schedule: it can become rote and staid. I can work through my sermon preparation checklist and still fail to capture the specific message God may have for our community.
Yes, quantity of time matters, but invariably there will be weeks when we end up with less time than we budgeted. There are hospital visits and funerals and board meetings that go long. Or I just procrastinated. As much as I want to believe I had a great preparation and study plan, sometimes I'm just not feeling it and it's hard to get the words on the page.
In these moments, I've often leaned on the words of Proverbs 16:3: "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." That leads me to pray something like, "Lord, I don't love what I have here. It's not what I worked for, hoped for, or imagined in my mind's eye. But it's what I have now and I'm committing it to you. Establish it as only you can and use it for your purposes."