Every now and again, it’s not a bad thing for me to use this space to repeat something I’ve said before. I know I probably repeat myself, during the sermons, all the time. But today let me repeat something I’ve said about the sermons. Namely, let me remind you of a list of requests I try to make of God each week as I prepare to preach to my people. I have taken several hints from my historical hero, Thomas Boston, in compiling this list … but also made it somewhat my own. I’m hoping the PRBCers out there might take some of them up and pray for me as well ... and that others of you will pray them for your own pastor. We need it!
So then, each week, and for both sermons, I try to pray: ‘Lord, help me be:’
- Penetrating. Help me, Lord not to simply skim along the surface of the text, making shallow observations and predictable applications. Help me, rather, to really think carefully, all the way to the bottom of the passage at hand and how it applies to the people before me. Help me get it right. Help me feed Your people on the kernel, rather than just the husk.
- Perspicuous. Help me, Lord, not to be opaque. Rather, use my studies and my lips as your instruments of clarifying Your word to Your people. Help me find the outline, the illustrations, even the turns of phrase that You would have me use. Help me not stumble over my words, but preach, in every way, with clarity.
- Patient. Help me, Lord, not to get ahead of myself (or of You) as I prepare or as I preach. Help me to work patiently enough through my studies, and through my actual sermon, that I leave ample room for the Holy Spirit to interject thoughts, applications, and realizations that I would not have come to had I gone too fast.
- Personal. Help me, Lord, not to simply preach this message to the congregation, but to myself. Help me apply it to my life, and my family, and my sins, and my walk with You. Help me not to be a mere a road sign that shows the way to others, but never moves a foot itself.
- Passionate. Help me, Lord – both as I prepare, and as I preach – to positively love the truth I am studying, and the God I am proclaiming. Help me to enjoy studying your word, and thus to really feel what I preach on Sunday morning. Help me to truly rise to the occasion of the text – whether the appropriate corresponding affection be zeal, or joy, or broken-heartedness, or wonder, or indignation, or what-have-you. Help me preach from a full heart, not just a full set of notes.
- Prophetic. Help me, Lord, not merely to give a Bible lesson … but to really, and appropriately, and powerfully be able to apply Your word to Your people. Help me speak exactly to their circumstances, sins, questions, and struggles – even if I don’t know what any of those things may be. Give me a real message for the people; a word in season; not merely an accurate exposition (indispensible as accuracy is). Let people leave saying: ‘That was exactly what I needed to hear today.’
As I said, this is my list to pray for myself, week-to-week. But I do hope many of you will also set aside some time, perhaps on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings, to pray for the message and the messenger that God has appointed for you on the coming Lord’s Day. And, while I don’t expect you’ll necessarily pin this little list up on your refrigerator (although it might fit snugly in the fly-leaf of your Bible!), I do hope it gives you a few starting places for prayer!