How To Pray For Your Pastor As He Steps Into the Pulpit

Charles Spurgeon

Preaching is scary business. Not the getting up in front of people part. I got over my fear of public speaking a long time ago. Plus, I have a high tolerance for making a public fool of myself, so I don’t get too worried about falling off the stage or accidentally tripping over something.

If all I were doing was public speaking I wouldn’t be nervous at all. I’m a decent public speaker. I mean, I’m no Martin Luther King Jr., but I think I’m tolerable (I do have a dream, but it involves wearing sweatpants for an entire weekend). People tell me that I’m a good public speaker. But there is a huge difference between preaching and public speaking. A person can be a good public speaker who is engaging, humorous, powerful, and insightful, and yet still be ineffective as a preacher.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul wasn’t a fancy pants preacher. He didn’t dazzle and shimmer with brilliant words and humorous illustrations. He didn’t have a big screen behind him, projecting him in larger than life, 3D fashion. He says that he came in weakness and fear, with much trembling. That doesn’t sound very impressive. That doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you want leading an evangelistic rally. It sounds more like the kind of guy who would work in a cubicle and play World of Warcraft every night.

And yet Paul’s preaching was incredibly effective. The Corinthians heard the word of God and were saved. Why? Because Paul’s preaching was accompanied by a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. In other words, the Holy Spirit took Paul’s “weak” words and caused them to detonate in the hearts of the Corinthians. Without the Spirit, Paul’s preaching was nothing more than weak, unimpressive words. But the Spirit made Paul’s words powerful – so powerful that the Corinthians believed in Christ and were saved.

So when your pastor steps into the pulpit, pray that his words would be accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you want your life to be changed by the sermon? Then pray desperately for your pastor. Pray that the Spirit would take his weak, feeble words, and transform them into a fiery spiritual weapon. Pray that your pastor’s words would pierce hearts and transform lives.

If your pastor has the “perfect” sermon, with the smoothest transitions, the most descriptive illustrations, and the best Bible explanation, yet doesn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit, he’s got nothing. His sermon won’t do anything.

When your pastors step up to the pulpit this weekend, pray for him to have power.

Pray For Your Pastor To Have Unction!

Unction.

It’s a term that sounds vaguely medical, as in, “I went to the doctor today and he told me that I have a bad case of unction in my lower GI tract.” Or it sounds like a term my mechanic would throw at me: “Yeah man, your unction piston is cracked right down the middle and we’re going to need to replace the entire engine block.”

But the word “unction” actually has a rich history behind it, even if we don’t use it too much any more. And let me tell you, I desperately need unction.

Unction is what separates a mighty sermon from a boring lecture. Unction is what causes a sermon to pierce the heart of a listener. Unction is what transforms a sermon from a boring load of facts to a mighty, God-filled, life-changing sermon.

Unction is what happens when the Holy Spirit puts life-giving power into the words spoken by a pastor. Unction is what happens when the Holy Spirit transforms a preacher’s words into weapons of divine warfare. Unction is what happens when the Holy Spirit causes the words of a pastor to become bullets of conviction.

See, here’s the deal. I could spend hours crafting the perfect sermon. I could have perfect illustrations that connect directly to people’s lives. I could have penetrating insight into the biblical text. I could speak with the tongues of men and angels! But without the Holy Spirit moving, without unction, absolutely nothing will happen. No lives will be changed. No hearts will be moved. No conviction or confession or adoration will take place. Christ will not be exalted. My sermon will be nothing more than words. The words may be interesting, they may be funny, but they won’t be life-changing.

Charles Spurgeon said:

Where there is no unction, it does not matter what we preach or how we preach it.

Spurgeon was the Prince of Preachers. If he needed unction, I do too.

When your pastor steps into the pulpit, pray that the Holy Spirit will give him unction. Pray that your pastor will be filled with Spirit-given passion and that his words will be propelled by Spirit-given power. Your pastor may not be Matt Chandler or Mark Driscoll, but with unction, the results of his sermon can be the same. Your pastor may not preach like Piper, but he can have the same Holy Spirit as Piper and the same unction as Piper.

So please, pray for your pastor. He desperately needs it. And you desperately need him to have unction too. Because without unction, there’s a good chance that the words of his sermon will bounce right off you.

How To Listen To A Sermon

SermonHave you ever had this happen to you? It’s 11:20 A.M. on a Sunday morning, and you’re listening to a sermon in church. Suddenly, your pastor says, “You know what I mean?” and you realize that you have no idea what he’s talking about, and that you’ve been thinking about college basketball for the last fifteen minutes, and that drool is leaking from the corner of your mouth. In fact, you have absolutely no idea what the sermon is about. Your pastor could be talking about the political and theological ramifications of the television show “Lassie” for all you know. I confess, I’ve had this happen to me.

Scripture places a high emphasis on preaching. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul commanded Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

Through the preaching of God’s word we hear God speak to us in a unique way that is different from when we read the Bible in private. Because of this it’s crucial that we hear the word of God preached and apply it to our lives. So how do we get the most out of a sermon? Here are four practical suggestions:

Remember Who Is Speaking

A pastor is someone who has been appointed by God to preach God’s word to God’s people. 1 Corinthians 12:28 says, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” When we hear our pastor preach God’s word, we’re not just listening to a nicely dressed man giving an Amway prep talk. We’re listening to one that has been appointed by God to proclaim the message of God. I don’t want to mess around with words from God. I want to pay close attention.

Listen Intently

Don’t let your pastor spoon feed you. Listen intently to what he is saying, and measure his words against the words of scripture. Be like the Bereans, who, along with having a sweet name, are described in Acts 17:11 as follows: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Notice the attitude of the Bereans. They were eager to receive the word of God. They desperately wanted to hear God’s word preached to them. But they also examined the scriptures daily to ensure that what they were hearing was really from the Bible. Let’s be like the Bereans.

Listen With Humility

It’s true, we must test the preached word. But it’s just as crucial that we listen to sermons with a spirit of humility. God himself has assigned my pastor (who also happens to be my dad) the job of instructing me in God’s word. It’s my job to listen to and learn from my pastor. This truth should instill a spirit of humility into me. I don’t want to approach listening to a sermon like a spiritual boxing match, ready for a theological fight. I want to listen with humility.

Apply The Word

Throughout the course of a sermon, we should be constantly asking the question, “How does this apply to me?” God intends us not just to hear sermons, but to be transformed by sermons. For this to happen, we must diligently seek to apply the truths we hear. During the sermon, ask yourself, How does this truth apply to:

  • My job
  • My marriage
  • My parenting
  • My Bible reading
  • My hobbies
  • My friendships, etc

A final word. Always pray before you listen to a sermon. Apart from the power of God, all our sermon-listening will be pointless. But the good news is, God is eager to meet us on Sunday mornings.

Now is when you, the alert and sagacious (a word meaning “full of life-changing wit, wisdom, and insight”) reader add your comments.  What helps you get the most out of sermons?  If you’ve never commented before, today is the day!

Originally published March, 2008

More Than I Ask Or Think

The Lord’s Day

O Lord My Lord,
This is thy day,
the heavenly ordinance of rest,
the open door of worship,
the record of Jesus’ resurrection
the seal of the sabbath to come,
the when saints militant and triumphant
unite in endless song.

I bless thee for the throne of grace,
that here free favour reigns;
that open access to it is through the blood of Jesus;
that the veil is torn aside and I can enter the holiest
and find thee ready to hear,
waiting to be gracious,
inviting me to pour out my needs,
encouraging my desires,
promising to give more than I ask or think.

Taken from The Valley of Vision

Five Prayers to Pray on Sunday

This is part five in the “Preparing For Sunday” series.

Here are five examples of prayers you can pray to help prepare your heart for Sunday. We serve an incredibly gracious God who is eager to answer these prayers.

  • Saturday night: “Oh Lord, please give me the gift of sleep right now, that I might awake refreshed and ready to meet with you. Give me the strength to rise early for the purpose of preparing my heart.”
  • Sunday morning before church: “Lord, open my eyes right now to see wonderful things in Your word. Fill me with Your Spirit now as I ready myself for church. Prepare my heart to sing songs of praise. Give me a soft heart to hear and apply Your word as it is preached.”
  • As the singing begins: “Lord draw my heart upward in worship to You. Warm my heart with affections for you, and guard me from singing with my lips but having a cold heart.”
  • As the preaching begins: “Lord give me a tender heart towards Your word. Let Your glorious truth grip my heart, and open my eyes to see Your glory. Guard me from the temptation of hearing Your word without applying it. Help me to listen with humility.”
  • At the conclusion of the service: “Lord give me grace now to fellowship with Your saints. My heart is selfish and would rather go home and sleep. Let me feel the very affection of Christ Jesus for these people. Help me to encourage them and build their faith for Your glory.”