Listening to sermons each Lord’s Day, while important and necessary, comes with a danger that must be faced and overcome by God’s grace. We already know that pews fill up with some people who may not respond to the sermon in a way that honors God, people who may be hearers only, and not doers, of the preached word (see James 1:22-24). But the pastor must keep in mind his own temptation during the sermon time. Because he is a herald of God’s word, he is also a hearer of it, yet he may leave the service a hearer only. Pastors face the weekly danger of not sitting under their own sermons.
A pastor’s heart should be shaped and affected by the sermon, and the chief means of achieving this change is prayer.
Prayer During Sermon Prep
By God’s grace, the sermon should be affecting the preacher before the preaching even occurs. In your church office or at a local coffee shop, wherever you study for your message, pray that the prep time will stir your affections and fill you with all manner of necessary conviction and holy zeal.
Pray that you will experience Paul’s desire for the Colossians: “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10).
Throughout the week, as you meditate on the sermon text, pray that God’s word would be a seed in you which would bear the fruit of obedience for the sake of the gospel and your church.
Prayer for You from Others
Pastors are keenly aware that Sunday is always coming, which means the sermon deadline is always before us. So do you ever ask others to pray for your heart as you prepare to preach? Seek out friends and church members who will pray faithfully in this regard. It’s such a blessing when I get text from a friend saying, “I’m praying for you as you preach today!”
I’ve seen pastors tweet a request for prayer, and surely they can be confident that at least a handful of people on Twitter will ask the Lord’s blessing on that sermon. We should rejoice in the prayers of others as they intercede for the vital ministry of preaching! Earlier today Dr. Hershael York tweeted, “I felt a strong sense of the Spirit’s anointing as I preached today. No wonder. So many brother pastors told me they were praying for me.”
And do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Pray for other pastors you know, that God would saturate them with his word during their study, that they would delight in their passage and rejoice in the personal application of it. Pray for God to give them a fire in their bones like Jeremiah. Pray for God to fill them with passion and clarity that he then might pour them out before the people through Christ-exalting preaching.
Also published on Medium.