A sermon steeped in prayer on the study floor, like Gideon’s fleece saturated with dew, will not lose its moisture between that and the pulpit. The first step towards doing anything in the pulpit as a thorough workman must be to kiss the feet of the Crucified, as a worshipper, in the study.
Prayer must carry on our work as much as preaching; he preacheth not heartily to his people that will not pray for them.
There is no chance of fire in the pews if there is an iceberg in the pulpit; and without personal prayer and communion with God during the preparation stages, the pulpit will be cold…To borrow from the marriage ceremony, it is imperative that “what God has joined together, no man should put asunder.” We dare not divorce our preaching from our praying.
For in his study the prophet can build his altar and on it lay the wood. There he can lovingly place his sacrifice…sermon…but still he knows that the fire must come down from God. Come it will, if he prays before he works, and if he works in the spirit of prayer.
The preachers who are the mightiest in their closets with God are the mightiest in their pulpits with men.
Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God’s cause in this world.
Light praying will make light preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong. [The God who answers prayer does this]…and makes it stick.
Praying makes the preacher a heart preacher. Prayer puts the preacher’s heart into the preacher’s sermon; prayer puts the preacher’s sermon into the preacher’s heart.
[Do pastors need to pray?] The glorious Sovereign conducts the affairs of His everlasting kingdom in the neighbourhood of the gates of hell, recruiting each new member of His body from Satan’s precinct. It is then inevitable that every preacher contends for truth and righteousness against principalities and powers of darkness.
One of the sorriest creatures in all the world is a preacher who does not pray, except in public. Even with the theology of Calvin, the illustrations of Spurgeon, and the searching applications of Edwards, if a pastor has not been alone with God in secret, he is a pitiful figure in the pulpit. Without secret prayer he is without unction, a lifeless shell. Though ministers may, as other true saints, fall into intervals of prayerlessness, he is no man of God in whom this condition prevails. He is a hypocrite who is all superstructure in plain view with no unseen foundation. Bright flowers without roots are plastic having no life.
If a man sets out to excel this generation of ministers, he will find it easier to preach than to pray. In the stern reality of the secret place a dagger is placed in his hands. Timid men shrink back from using it. When a man will plunge the knife into self-pleasing, self-confidence, and self-interest, and will wrestle alone with God for His glory, the world will see God working openly, and granting victory on the field of battle.
The devil will let a preacher prepare a sermon if it will keep him from preparing himself.
God reveals Jesus to people as a consequence of prayer [Lk. 2:27, 37; 3:21-22; 9:18-20, 26-36]. And so, if we really want Jesus to be revealed in our preaching – if we really want to uncover Jesus as the very center of all the Scriptures – then we must begin with prayer in our preparation (David Helm).
This, and what experience God so far has given me in preaching and prayer, has brought a conviction. Should I ever write a book on essentials for preaching, I know now that I would devote at least a third of it to spiritual preparation in matters such as prayer. This would be the first third.
If we would prevail with men in public, we must prevail with God in secret.
Strange it is that any discussion of preaching should take place outside the context of believing prayer. We have not prepared until we have prayed… We cannot represent God if we have not stood before God. It is more important for me therefore to teach a student to pray than to preach
Give yourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. If you do not pray, God will probably lay you aside from your ministry, as He did me, to teach you to pray.
I’d rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher; Jesus Christ never taught his disciples how to preach, but only how to pray.
The Lord always helps me when I preach; provided I have earnestly sought Him in private… My chief help is prayer. Whenever I study a single part of divine truth, I always gain some light about it after praying and meditating over it. Extensive prayer is often difficult because of the weakness of the flesh, physical infirmities, and a full schedule. But no one should expect to see much good resulting from his labors if he does not spend time in prayer and meditation.
If the preacher strives to speak according to the rules of this world, he may please many, particularly those who have a literary taste. But he is less likely to become an instrument in the hands of God for the conversion of sinners or for the building up of the saints. Neither eloquence nor depth of thought makes a truly great preacher. Only a life of prayer and meditation will render him a vessel ready for the Master’s use and fit to be employed in the conversion of sinners and in the edification of the saints.
The Autobiography of George Muller, 1984, p. 35. All quotations taken from books published by Whitaker House are used with permission of the publisher. Whitaker House books are available at Christian bookstores everywhere. Get this book!
The enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian, and above all the minister, to neglect prayer. He knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected.
Prayer is our principle and main work. It has priority over the ministry of the Word in that it must come first. It is by prayer that the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is effectively unsheathed (Derek Prime and Alistair Begg).
Verily, they may preach even to paleness and faintness, until the bellows are burnt, until their lungs and vitals are consumed, and their hearers will never be the better; not one sinner will be converted until God is graciously pleased, by the efficacious working of His Spirit, to add His blessing to their labors and make His Word, in the mouth of the preacher, sharper than any two-edged sword in the heart of the hearer. All will be in vain, to no saving purpose, until God is pleased to give the increase. And in order to do this, God looks for their prayers to come up to His ears. A praying minister is in the way to have a successful ministry (John Shaw).
Behind every good biblical preacher is much hard labor in preparation (1 Tim 5:17; 2 Tim 2:15). However, only prayer can assure that his work is not wasted and that his message will spiritually impact the hearers. As the biblical preacher interweaves prayer with his preparation, he should focus on certain petitions:
1. That he will receive God’s message…in spiritual as well as mental comprehension (1 Cor. 2:9-16).
2. That God’s message will first grip his own heart in strong conviction (1 Thes. 1:5).
3. That he will clearly and correctly convey God’s message in the power of the Spirit in effective communication (1 Thes. 1:5).
4. That the Spirit will use the message to produce proper response and change, spiritual transformation (2 Cor. 3:18).
5. That the whole process and finished product will accomplish God’s purpose in glorification of God through Christ (1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Pet 4:11) (Henry Holloman).
A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more
He that is more frequent in his pulpit to his people than he is in his closet for his people is but a sorry watchman.
Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray, then, my dear brother; pray, pray, pray.
Without extended, concentrated prayer, the ministry of the Word withers. And when the ministry of the Word declines, faith (Rom. 10:17; Gal. 3:2, 5) and holiness (John 17:17) decline. Activity may continue, but life and power and fruitfulness fade away. Therefore, whatever opposes prayer opposes the whole work of ministry.
The apostles gave the importance of prayer in preaching: “We will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). The order is interesting. Even if the mention of prayer first is not significant, it is certain that prayer is just as primary for preachers as the Word.
Dependence on prayer in preaching is synonymous with [the preacher’s] dependence on God rather than human ability (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-5).
Prayer is not an elective but the principal element in the kaleidoscope of spiritual characteristics that mark a preacher. These traits unite into a powerful spiritual force; they build a spokesman for God. Jesus, the finest model, and other effective spokesmen for God have been mighty in prayer coupled with the virtues of godliness and dependence on God. The composite of spiritual qualities that centers in prayer is conspicuous of God’s long line of proclaimers in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in church history, even to the present day. Some books on essentials for preaching slight prayer, but others acknowledge its invaluable role. Preachers who follow the biblical model take prayer very seriously. In sermon preparation, they steep themselves in prayer.
The bell in the steeple may be well hung, fairly fashioned, and of soundest metal, but it is dumb until the ringer makes it speak. And…the preacher has no voice of quickening for the dead in sin, or of comfort for living saints unless the divine [Spirit] gives him a gracious pull, and begs him speak with power. Hence the need of prayer for both preacher and hearers.
Prayer will singularly assist you in the delivery of your sermon; in fact, nothing can so gloriously fit you to preach as descending fresh from the mount of communion with God to speak with men. None are so able to plead with men as those who have been wrestling with God on their behalf.
Oh, without prayer what are the church’s agencies, but the stretching out of a dead man’s arm, or the lifting up of the lid of a blind man’s eye? Only when the Holy Spirit comes is there any life and force and power.
May God help me, if you cease to pray for me! Let me know the day, and I must cease to preach.
Nothing can so gloriously fit you to preach as descending fresh from the mount of communion with God to speak with men. None are so able to plead with men as those who have been wrestling with God on their behalf.
Texts will often refuse to reveal their treasures till you open them with the key of prayer.