The Preacher and Prayer: Prayer in the Three Seasons of Our Sermon

This past week Preaching Today released a new resource on the importance of prayer in preaching entitled Praying for Your Sermon. After a very helpful introduction from Matt Woodley, the Editor for Preaching Today, there are six chapters, each offering practical and creative ways to rekindle and then integrate prayer into your preaching routines and rhythms. It was my privilege to author one of these chapters:

  1. Preparing for Your Sermon Through Prayer by Ken Shigematsu
  2. 6 Times to Stop and Pray by Scott Gibson
  3. Prayer in the Three Seasons of Our Sermon by Matt Erickson
  4. Fidelity, Freedom, and Fire by Jesse Benack
  5. The Five Circles of Prayer for Your Sermon by Daniel Fusco
  6. 8 Dynamics in Preaching’s Double Communication by Darrell Johnson

Here is the first part of my chapter, which is behind a paywall, but I’d encourage any preacher to make search out the valuable resources at Preaching Today.

When I was in college, my mentor gave me a copy of a small booklet by E. M. Bounds, a pastor and author known primarily for his extensive writings on prayer. That little booklet was called Preacher and Prayer, and it challenged me beyond measure when I first read it. In fact, to this day, I can still remember a quotation from the first few pages:

What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men and women whom the Holy Ghost can use–people of prayer, people mighty in prayer … He does not anoint plans but people–people of prayer.

I still require ministry residents at our church interested in preaching to read that little booklet.

I have to admit that Bounds’ writing on prayer often makes me feel as if my life of prayer as a preacher is insignificant. Since reading that booklet, I have read innumerable books on preaching. Through them I have learned many important lessons, such as how best to study for preaching, finding and developing illustrations, engaging the hearers meaningfully, and so much more. Most of these books make very little mention of prayer. Perhaps that is because the authors think it goes without saying that prayer is important from start to finish in preaching.

However, it might be worth considering what happens when we no longer say what goes without saying. While many of us pray as preachers, I have a feeling that most of us would not put it in the pride of place that E. M. Bounds once did.

Could it possibly be that as preachers today we have forgotten how to integrate the ministry of prayer into our ministry of preaching? I have no desire to offer simplistic answers to these questions, but it helps me to think of three seasons in the lifespan of every sermon—before the sermon (planning), during the sermon (delivery), and after the sermon (relinquishing). Here’s how I pray through each of these three sermon seasons.

Matt Erickson, “Prayer in the Three Seasons of Our Sermon,” in Praying for Your Sermon from Preaching Today.

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