“Help me to speak your word with faithfulness, clarity, authority, passion, wisdom, humility, and liberty…”
These are words I often pray publicly, as I lead the congregation in prayer before I read my text and begin my sermon.
I do not know when I started praying this prayer. And I don’t remember forming these words intentionally. But they have become a regular part of my prayers.
I do not pray this out of vain repetition. I pray this because I need the Lord to do the same thing for me every time I stand to preach.
Whether I pray this publicly or privately, these are seven things I want the Lord to do in and through me as I preach.
Faithfulness. I want to obey the divine command to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2). This requires that I understand what the text means by what it says. Then I must prepare and present a message that submits to the authorial intent of the text. I want to bring out of the text what’s in the text, rather than imposing my own ideas upon it. I want my thoughts and words to be consistent with sound doctrine.
Clarity. One of the best compliments a person can give me is to say that my preaching is clear. I do not want the listener to be confused about what I am saying. Even if they do not agree with me, I want the explanation of the text and the point of the message to be clear. I also believe that clarity is its own style. There is something attractive about a message that is clear.
Authority. When I began my first pastorate as a teenager, I had no personal authority to draw from. But I quickly learned that truth is truth whether I experience it or not. Several decades later, I am still convinced that the preacher’s ultimate authority is found in the word of God. I want to preach with biblical authority that reflects the fact that the text is the word of God, not the words of man.
Passion. I do not want to preach like a news reporter that is dispassionately reading copy from a teleprompter. I want my preaching to be with a head and heart that have been gripped by the truth. The people in the pew may not believe what I am saying. But I want it to be evident that I believe it. If preaching is “logic on fire,” we should preach with convinced minds and enflamed hearts.
Wisdom. In Colossians 1:28, Paul writes of the priority of proclaiming Christ, warning and teaching every with all wisdom. Wisdom should mark our preaching. Of course, the content of our preaching should reflect the wisdom of God, rather than the foolishness of the world. Likewise, we need wisdom for the presentation of the word. Wisdom will guide us as to what to say and how to say it.
Humility. We are called to preach Jesus and not ourselves (2 Co. 4:5). It is impossible to exalt Christ and exalt self at the same time. We are just friends of the groom, like John the Baptist (John 3:29). We must decrease that Christ may increase (John 3:30). Our job is to preach in such a way that brings the hearer before the living God. Then we are to get out of the way!
Liberty. I recently began to pray this after reading a biography of an influence preacher of the last century. In letters to supporters, he would often ask them to pray that he would have liberty when he preached. That stuck with me. I don’t know how to explain it. But anyone who has been preaching for a while knows what’s it’s like to preach with liberty and what it is to preach without it. So I ask for freedom to preach my heart and convictions to the glory of God.
What do you pray before you preach?