Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Preparing My Soul to Preach

A couple of weeks ago I explained the steps I take to prepare for my weekly sermon. In this post, I want to describe how I prepare my soul to preach those sermons.

Remind myself of the Gospel
I don’t know about other preachers, but I have a sinful tendency to equate my significance with my ability to preach. This is one reason why I need to remind myself of the gospel on Sunday morning. When I rehearse the gospel, I remember that my worth is not found in my performance, but in the performance of Another.

My heart desperately seeks the acceptance and approval of others, especially my audience, but in the gospel I find something greater: the approval of a holy, glorious, and mighty God. And I know that because of Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection I have God’s unwavering love and blessing.

Reminding myself of the gospel also warms my cold heart, giving me a passion to preach God’s Word and tell of his glory and marvelous grace.

Recognize my dependence on God
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a sermon is merely an intellectual exercise. “Success” in the pulpit cannot be reduced to merely the exchange of biblical information, polished verbiage, and captivating illustrations. Sermons are successful when they are fruitful. And only God can produce spiritual fruit. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." (1 Cor. 3:6)

This reality forces me to pray and plead with God to work through my sermon because I know that if God does not act then his people will not be transformed in to the likeness of his Son. 

In addition to extemporaneous prayers, I have been using a written prayer from The Valley of Vision, entitled A Ministers Preaching. I use this as a prayer guide about 15 minutes before corporate worship begins. Here are a few excerpts from it:
“My Master God,
I am desired to preach today, but go weak and needy to my task...Give me assistance in preaching and prayer, with heart uplifted for grace and unction...Keep me conscious all the while of my defects, and let me not gloat in pride over my performance...Attend with power the truth preached, and awaken the attention of my slothful audience...And help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way, or bear a broken testimony so worthy a Redeemer, or be harsh in treating of Christ’s death, its design and end, from lack of warmth and fervency.”[1]
That's how I prepare to preach. What about you? What ways do you ready yourself to preach or teach God’s Word?

[1] Arthur G. Bennett, Valley of Vision (leather): a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Deluxe ed. (Charlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2003), 348-49.

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