What difference can prayer make as you prepare for your next sermon, teaching session or presentation? EM Bounds has challenged, “We have emphasized sermon-preparation until we have lost sight of the important thing to be prepared—the heart. A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared sermon.” – E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer
Here are 5 ways to pray over your next message…
1) Pray to be true to God’s Word. Our words are forgettable and sometimes regrettable. It is the Word of God that souls crave. Satisfy that craving by sticking close to the script for life that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Resist the temptation to weave the Bible into your story, illustration or object lesson. Instead, prop up God’s Word and point people to the Savior with purposed passion.
We are reminded by the Prophet Isaiah, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV)
2) Pray to stay out of the way. Pride can creep in when we are hoping and working for that “amen,” laugh, cry, gasp, stone-cold silence or any other emotional response we know we can illicit from a crowd. We need saved from our tendency to manipulate a group, just because we can. Instead, we need an acute and humble sense of Holy Spirit awareness. What is God wanting to say and accomplish by His Word in the lives of the audience He has seen fit to assemble?
3) Pray to connect with your audience. It is a sobering thought to consider that people are there by the invite of God. They have been gently drawn, lovingly wooed, consistently coxed or stubbornly pressured into coming, often through a friend or family member. Now, how will you honor that invitation? What shared reality, event, experience, pain or joy can connect you at the vital and vulnerable, “felt” level. This can be scary and challenges us at the core of our need to be, or at least be seen, as in control. See Prayer #2 and do what it takes to connect in such a way that they might take the risk, trust you, and the message you are bringing.
4) Pray for brevity. This one is as overlooked as it is underestimated.
“Brevity is the soul of wit.” (William Shakespeare, Hamlet)
Most pastors and leaders have little trouble filling the allotted time, and then some. The question is, with what? People’s time is precious to them. Take advantage of it and most won’t be back. Sure, the Apostle Paul was know to preach all night. Note: You aren’t Paul. Remember, the Spirit of God can move just as powerfully in 20-30 minutes as He can in an hour. If you are going long, you better be going deep and the Spirit better be the One keeping there. Otherwise, stop circling the runway, as it were, and just land the plane.
5) Pray to challenge well. Deep down people want to count for something and someone greater than themselves. What they don’t need is more mere information. They need challenged to be and do better. This can only be accomplished as you courageously bring them to a place of decision and lead them in clear application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t “let them off the hook” and settle for closing in a way that makes them merely feel bette about themselvesr. If your message doesn’t challenge people to live transformed lives, than it wasn’t worth anyone’s time.
Never underestimate the power of prayer. And, never over-estimate your best preparations without it.
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