In my prior post, I shared one way in which experience has taught me how to improve my preaching. In this post, I share the second of three lessons I've learned over the past eight years of weekly preaching.
2. Spend time praying for yourself and more time praying for your people
Good preachers immerse themselves in prayer as they study and interpret the text, compose the sermon, and prepare to preach it. Most books on preaching place a heavy emphasis on this, and rightly so. Yet, many of these books focus solely on the preacher praying for himself. Certainly, the preacher must pray for the Spirit to illuminate his understanding of the biblical text, guide his composition of the sermon, and empower his preaching of the finished product. Likewise, the preacher must pray prayers of personal worship, confession, and repentance in response to the truths he uncovers in the process of sermon preparation. All of these things are necessary for effective preaching.
But they are not sufficient.
@@All of these things are necessary for effective preaching. But they are not sufficient.@@
The preacher must go beyond merely praying for himself and must also devote himself to praying for his people. The perfectly crafted sermon matters not if the hearts of your people are too hard or too distracted to hear it. Thus, the preacher's week should be saturated with prayers for the congregation.
Prayers that they will be physically present to hear from God.
Prayers that their hearts will be softened by his Word.
Prayers that the Spirit will grant them understanding of what is being said and what they are supposed to do about it.
Prayers that God will empower them to apply the proclaimed truth to their lives in precisely the way he desires.
Because the sermon preparation process often takes place in a private room with none present but God and the preacher, it is easy for a preacher to focus only on himself and his relationship to God as he goes about preparing for his sermon; so much so that it is not uncommon for preachers to pray for the congregation insofar as it relates to their own desire to be perceived as competent and likable (for example, "God, I pray that they'll like this sermon," "I pray they'll be excited about what I have to say," or "God, I pray I don't make a fool out of myself in front of them this week").
But God has not placed you in your church for the purpose of impressing your people with your spiritual depth or oratory skills. Nor has he placed you there solely for your own sanctification through the process of studying and proclaiming the Scriptures. He has placed you in your church that his people might be transformed through your preaching of his Word. He has ordained that such transformation come, not merely through what you say to them on Sunday, but also through what you say to God about them throughout the week.
@@God has not placed you in your church for the purpose of impressing your people@@
Photo credit to Olga Caprotti: https://flic.kr/p/6ZJd5s
Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or facebook.