I know, that’s a ridiculous question to ask. Of course, prayer is absolutely vital in preparing your messages for Sunday. I would say it should be the first step in sermon preparation.
OK, I think we will all agree that prayer is a necessary element in our preparation. Now, how do we pray?
For a long time, I think my prayers, though completely sincere, were a bit short-sighted. My prayers were all wrapped up in me and my needs in preparing the sermon. They would include phrases such as: “Lord, show me what scripture passage you have for this week.” “Lord, help me to see what you’re saying here.” “Lord, help me to deliver this sermon well.” “Lord, let all my words be yours.” I wasn’t completely “me-centered” but most of my prayers centered on me and what I wanted God to show me and do through me.
These are all legitimate prayers. Preaching the Word of God is a huge responsibility and we need God’s strength and direction to do it well.
But, the preaching event is not a solo activity. There are real people sitting out there in the audience, most desperately needing to hear a word from God. Those people should be included in our sermon prep prayers, too.
In Colossians, Paul was writing to a church he had probably never visited. But he prayed for those people:
9 And so, from the day we heard, 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, 10 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. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-12, ESV)
There are several things Paul told the Colossian church he prayed for them:
These items are now part of my sermon prep prayers. I need the Lord to guide me as I prepare to preach. But I also want what the Lord has to say through me have an effectual influence on the people listening.
So now, my sermon prep prayers include, with much more importance, the people who will be present when the sermon is delivered. I pray what the Lord has me say will increase the people’s knowledge of Him and His will. I pray the message will spur on the people to live as the Lord wants them to live. I pray the message will draw them close to Him and they will be thankful for who Jesus is and what He has done for them. I get specific in what I ask God to do through my message. I not only want the Lord’s influence in my sermon prep. I also want the Lord’s influence in the lives of those who will be hearing the message.
Sermon prep is hard and we need the Lord if we want to get it right. But we also need what He has us to say make a difference for those present. What better way to prepare the sermon’s hearers than to pray for them, as well?
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