Chapter 0

Praying for Your Sermon

Nobody had to teach me that I should pray for my sermons. The first time I preached, with knees trembling and stomach fluttering, I knew that preaching was over my head. After all, I was standing before a holy God declaring his eternal Word. What an awesome responsibility. And lives are literally hanging in the balance. The risen Christ wants to heal the sick, raise the dead, set the captives free, seek and save the lost. Who is worthy of such a task? Of course, I need to pray for my sermon!

But if you’re anything like me, I can get so pressed for sermon prep time, not to mention the 101 other pastoral and personal duties for the week, that praying for my sermon falls by the wayside. Sadly, I can often relate with Scott Gibson’s observation what while we all agree “that prayer is foundational for preaching,” we often “get into our routine of sermon preparation and prayer becomes an afterthought rather than a central part of preaching.” So, if you’re anything like me, this preaching guide is for you.

Six seasoned preachers offer practical and creative ways to rekindle and then integrate prayer into your preaching routines and rhythms. For instance, Scott Gibson recommends six times during our sermon prep when we can remember to stop and pray. With his typical intellectual clarity and pastoral gentleness, Ken Shigematsu invites us into “the lasting fruit of our preaching ministry” by taking a “posture of restful dependence on God in prayer.” I was moved by Ken’s counsel about how to “prepare at an unhurried pace,” the pace of attentive listening to the Lord.

Matt Erickson’s article helps us to think and pray through the three seasons of every sermon’s lifespan—before the sermon (planning), during the sermon (delivery), after the sermon (relinquishing). Jesse Benack likes to focus his sermon prayers on the three Fs of preaching—Fidelity (to God’s Word), Freedom (to be free in Christ), and Fire (the unction of the Holy Spirit). Prayer comes alive in Daniel Fusco’s sermon prep as he thinks of five concentric circles, starting in the center (praying for yourself and your family), and then moving to the outer circle (praying for continued impact).

Finally, my preaching mentor Darrell Johnson, who has been preaching for fifty years, offers this impetus to our prayer life: “Preaching that reaches the human mind and heart, preaching that brings about real transformation (on all kinds of levels) emerges from a praying mind and heart. The call to preach is first and foremost the call to pray.” He calls it “the double motion of preaching”—speaking to human beings about the living God and speaking to God about human beings.

The 20th century Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer once said, “I only pray when I’m in trouble, but I’m always in trouble, so I’m always praying.” Preaching leads me into trouble. It’s over my head, out of my league, above my paygrade. You don’t need this preaching guide to convince you that you should pray. But I hope this preaching guide will show you how to weave prayer into every step of your sermon prep process.