Preaching Articles

Most preachers end their sermons with a prayer or a prayer period. For some preachers, the prayer closing one sermon differs little from the prayer ending another. However, I have long found it helpful not only to plan and write my closing prayer (or, in some cases, the benediction to close the service), but to actually make that prayer the first thing I do when writing my sermon. 

Here's why. Defining what I will be praying for my listeners or asking of them at the sermon's close is one of the best ways I know to define and sharpen the aim of the whole sermon from beginning to end. Knowing where I'm going to end helps me to know how to start and how to proceed. It starts the sermon preparation process "with the end in mind," to cite a familiar phrase.

Do you plan to prompt your listeners to experience new life in Christ as a result of your sermon? Or do you hope that your hearers will reach a new level of commitment by the time the service concludes? Or are you going to ask them to surrender a particular sin or rise up to a specific task? Whatever the case, write the prayer that will close your sermon first, and then let it guide the rest of your preparation.

Bob Hostetler is a writer, editor and speaker from southeastern Ohio. His 30 books, which include Quit Going to Church and the novel The Bone Box, have sold over three million copies. He has coauthored a dozen books with Josh McDowell. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences and retreats. He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor and, with his wife Robin, a foster parent to 10 boys (though not all at once).

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Tim Richards

commented on Feb 28, 2015

Interesting and valid idea, however, I do have one concern. When we have the end in mind before we begin that end will guide the progression of the sermon's idea rather than allowing the passage to guide the idea development. Perhaps a better approach would be to attempt to combine both approaches.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Feb 28, 2015

Your advice is good, even though it may fly in the face of those who think our prayers should be strictly off the cuff -- as if the Lord cannot guide us in planning public prayers, just as He can guide in developing our sermons. I have been strongly influenced by Fred Craddock in my approach to preaching, although I don't always follow his wise advice. Similar to your point, Dr. Craddock says we should write the closing part of our message first, including a strong story that brings the central truth home. I think you and he both are saying, "Know where you are going before you leave home."

Doug Knox

commented on Feb 28, 2015

I agree. Hosea, for example, brings a completely scripted prayer in his last appeal to the Northern Kingdom (Hosea 14:1-3). The prayer is not just a plea, but a lesson in how to pray. Thank you for a good observation on an excellent article.

Tom Lambert

commented on Feb 28, 2015

Agree. Good points and additional insights.

William Douglas Johnson, Sr

commented on Apr 11, 2015

Bob, thank you for your insight. This idea is a little different, but a thought worth taking in consideration. I'm always closing with a prayer and, like you said, one prayer is sometimes just like the closing prayer for any number of other sermons. Not meant to be that way, but still the way it is. Bless you for your advice.

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