I publicly pray before I start my sermons. I also privately pray as I preach.
Can you preach and pray at the same time?
Multiple things go through the preacher’s mind as he preaches. I’m not sure the preacher thinks about multiple things at the same time; rather, the mind quickly and constantly shifts from one thing to another, consisting of good and bad thoughts, true and false, wise and foolish. This is why I pray as I preach.
There are three fundamental things I need God to do me for as I preach.
I need God to guide my thoughts.
Have you ever tried to pray, only to have your mind flooded with distractions? The same thing can happen in preaching.
All kinds of mundane thoughts come to mind. Members walk. Babies cry. Children pass notes. Deacons sleep. Others seem more interested in their cell phones. You spot guests. You don't see a faithful member in her regular spot. You start thinking about last week. Or you start thinking about next week.
There are moments of distraction in preaching when I openly ask God to hold my mind. This petition is secretly and repeatedly uttered throughout the message. The words you say in preaching are offerings of worship. So are the thoughts you entertain as you preach the word! You need God to bring to your memory what he taught you in private. You need God to help you stay focused. You need God to reign in your wandering thoughts.
I need God to guard my heart.
Faithful preaching requires mental preparation and concentration. Moreover, it demands spiritual devotion. It doesn’t matter if your head is in the game if your heart is not.
The preacher should offer the Lord a prepared message, a rested body and a consecrated heart. So examine your heart for any unconfessed sin before you stand to preach. And continue the spiritual examination as you preach.
You may not feel comfortable with the message. You may be afraid of their faces. You may be in a place where preaching is out of season. You need God to guard your heart from fear, worry and discouragement.
Or the sermon may go well. The congregation gets the message. There is the sense that God is at work. You need God to guard your heart from sinful pride.
I need God to govern my words.
I advocate writing full sermon manuscripts for each sermon. Writing yourself clear will keep you from filibustering in the pulpit. Yet it does not mean you should say everything in the manuscript. You need God to edit out what he wants out and edit in what he wants in.
The Apostle Paul often asked that he would be given the right words to say (Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:3-4). This, too, should be our prayer. The pulpit is not a stage for your performance. It is the throne of the word of God. The King’s herald must be careful not to say anything in preaching that is untrue, unwise or unhelpful.
Standing to preach is dangerous business. The Lord will judge teachers with greater strictness (James 3:1). There are unbelievers, baby Christians and mature saints in the congregation. Your preaching of the gospel is the fragrance of life to those who are being saved and the fragrance of death to those who are perishing. Our preaching of the gospel should be faithful, clear and compelling. We need God’s help to this end.
What do you pray as you preach?