There are several prayers that I regularly pray as a preacher.
1. Lord, show them what you have shown me. Paul told Timothy to ‘Reflect on what I am saying and the Lord will give you insight’ (2 Tim. 2:7) A sermon is always the product of hard reflection, thinking and study, but there’s the flip side too – that wonderful moment when the clouds clear and something is understood, perhaps with new clarity or force, or even a new understanding. God has given an insight.
You can’t replicate in 25 minutes the hours of study that produced that, but you long for the people to have that same, heart-stopping moment. Only God can do that.
2. Lord, don’t hold my sins against them. I’m not talking unrepented or wilful sin here, but a pastor who spends time in God’s Word will experience its soul-scouring power, and we become increasingly aware of our failings and sin.
3. Lord, If I’m the blockage, remove me. I’ve often prayed that other people or obstacles be removed, and so its imperative to include myself. What if I am the reason this church is struggling in this area or that? What if they would be blessed by a having a different pastor?
4. Lord, take the glory Pulpits, lecterns and stages are dangerously flattering places to stand. Everybody looks at us. Everybody listens to us. We claim to speak with an authority no politician or despot could ever aspire to, although many have tried: ‘This is what God says!’ And people flatter us with their attention, appreciation and taking us so seriously that they change their lives on the basis of it.
I remember hearing a famous church leader say that he regularly prayed that if God saw fit, he would forget what he was going to say, lose his place in his notes – whatever it took to remind him and the people that he was merely one Christian exposing other Christians to what the Bible says. That is all. God must take the glory.
5. And publicly, I usually pray a prayer along these lines: ‘Lord, would you open our hearts to your Word, and open your Word to our hearts’ Both halves affirm God’s sovereignty in the preaching process: without his work, both his word and our hearts remain closed.
What do you pray for your preaching?