“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Years ago I heard of a country pastor who was asked, “How do you prepare to preach?” He responded epically by saying, “Well, I just read myself full, pray myself hot and then turn myself loose.”
That’s one of the greatest statements I’ve ever heard regarding preaching. It’s simple, but it isn’t simplistic. It emphasizes the significance of prayer in the act of preaching. If a preacher doesn’t first spend adequate time in the prayer closet alone with Jesus, he won’t be ready to preach about Jesus.
In 1987, I was privileged to interview two great men of God – Dr. Herschel Hobbs, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City for 20+ years, and Dr. W.A. Criswell, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas for 50+ years. I asked them both for their best advice for a young preacher. Independently, they gave the same answer: “Keep your mornings for God.” They stressed that the preacher must pray and study if he’s going to be ready in the pulpit on Sunday. And they both were convinced that the best time for prayer and sermon preparation was in the morning.
I agree. Thus, for over three decades of serving as a pastor, I have sought to “keep my mornings for God.” As often as possible, I’ve avoided meetings with others in the morning. I’ve served in both smaller churches and larger churches. Regardless, in the morning I meet with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer and then I study for upcoming sermons. It requires discipline, but it’s worth it. Everything is better when all week long a preacher “prays himself hot” and “reads Himself full.”
The Bible says that when Jesus prayed, the heavens above Him were opened and the Holy Spirit anointed Him for ministry (cf. Luke 3:21-22; Acts 10:38). Preachers, if Jesus needed to pray, so do we. And if the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus when He prayed, He will do the same for us. God opens the windows of heaven and anoints praying preachers.
When you think about it, what good is a prayerless church? What good is a prayerless denomination? What good is a prayerless seminary or seminary professor? What good is a prayerless missionary? And what good is a prayerless preacher? Without prayer there is no anointing. Prayer is the God-ordained means of accessing the power and presence of God.
When I was younger, I heard a preacher say, “Little prayer, little power. Some prayer, some power. Much prayer, much power!” That is spot on!
America is in a mess. Our nation is divided racially, politically and religiously. Sexual immorality is rampant. Unborn children are being slaughtered daily via abortion. Is there hope? Yes! Praying preachers can rectify all the ailments of our nation by restoring God’s power back into our pulpits! As in Samuel’s day, the prophetic word of God will be heard again “from Dan to Beersheba” (cf. 1 Samuel 3:20-21).
Only praying preachers will preach with Holy Spirit unction and anointing. Only praying preachers will live holy lives and avoid ministerial mishaps. Only praying preachers will enjoy the hand and favor of God on their lives. Only praying preachers will see lost people repent of their sins and believe savingly in Jesus. And only praying preachers will see Christians grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
Preacher, before you go up into the pulpit, get down on your knees (or face) and cry out to God in prayer. Ask Him to help you explain and apply the sacred, biblical text. Ask Him to open the windows of heaven and anoint you with power.
Our nation and our world need praying preachers. We need preachers who talk with God before they try to talk for God.
May God raise up preachers across America who will devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word, in that order!