There are plenty of resources available on moving from a pastor’s Bible study to sermon prep to preaching on Sunday. These focus on the mechanics of good exegetical practices, outlining, and more. But what about prayer? Over the years, I’ve found that too few books on ministry have too little to say on the more spiritual issues involved in a pastor’s pulpit ministry; specifically, on his prayer life. What follows is not the end all, but an introduction to how a pastor can pray himself from his study to the pulpit. Whether you’re a church member wanting to lift up your pastor or a pastor wanting help from God, here are three things to pray for in preparation for Sunday’s sermon.
Pray for the Pastor
Study and preparation for the sermon must begin with study and preparation for the pastor himself. Pastors must be gripped by the passage and work at applying to themselves before they are truly ready to call others to greater faith and obedience from the text. So, if you’re a pastor, pray for yourself. Ask God to open your eyes to his word (Ps 119:18), give you faith to believe his promises (Rom 10:17), live in obedience to his Word (Jas 1:23-25), and show you his glory (Ex 22:18; John 1:14).
Pray for the Preaching
Who is fit for the task of preaching? Not many. It is a staggering thought that mere men stand before others declaring, “Thus says the Lord.” We need help for our preaching, therefore we pray. But prayers for the preaching of God’s Word do not begin on Sunday morning. They should begin the moment you open the Bible and begin to think through the passage for the first time. Nevertheless, there is an increased intensity as the Lord’s Day draws here. The study is done and the sermon is taking shape—whatever you’re taking into the pulpit is being finalized. As this is happening, ask God to make you clear in what you say (Col 4:4), give you confidence in his word (2 Pet 1:3-4,16-21), give you passion for the message (Jer 20:9), and allow you boldness in declaring the truth of Gospel (Eph 6:19).
Pray for the People
Preaching is not an academic exercise nor a mere lesson to be taught. It is a means of making disciples of Jesus Christ. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones has famously said, preaching should be “logic on fire.” Preaching should be an impassioned argument for the purpose of showing the truths of God’s word to God’s people that they might live for God’s glory. When you preach you are seeking change in the souls of men. Only God can bring about such change, therefore we must pray for the people we are going to be preaching to. We need to ask God to be at work in their lives. Specifically, we should pray over the specific truths from the passage we will be preaching on. Beyond that we should also ask God to make them attentive to his word (Isa 28:23-26), open blind eyes to the gospel (2 Cor 4:1-6), mature believers to Christ’s image (Col 1:28), and encourage them with sound doctrine (Ps 119:165).
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of things to pray for during the week. But it is a start. Pastors, make it a priority to seek God’s help in the preparation and delivery of your sermons. Church members, pray for the ministry of the Word at your church. Ask God to bless the message and messenger that you and the rest of the congregation might be built up, corrected, and encouraged towards greater faith and godliness.