Prayer Before a Sermon II
July 24, 2010 by Peg
The first “prayer before a sermon” I posted some time ago has become one of the most-read posts on this blog. IMO it’s a great prayer but not necessarily for contemporary worship use!
But because so many have checked it out, I wanted to post a prayer I *do* think is good for worship use. It’s one my pastor uses regularly. I know it pre-dates him, and I believe it is of British origin but I’m not certain. If any of my readers know who wrote it please post and tell me!
The prayer is:
“Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through them;
Take our minds and think through them;
Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Yourself, Lord Jesus. Amen.”
I’m back preaching on Sunday, for the first time in 10 months. I’m back in a proper pulpit for the first time since… I can’t remember when.
In my present church, we usually preach from a little portable lectern on the dais, not one of the matching lecterns either side the altar slightly further back. Often, the service leader will pray for the preacher before they start their sermon. Otherwise the preacher just launches in. Sometimes I’ve been comfortable doing that – especially if I’ve got a particularly strong opening to a sermon – but sometimes it doesn’t feel quite right.
I’m a guest preacher, on a special occasion, at All Saints, Basingstoke this weekend. It would be appropriate I feel, to offer a prayer before I preach. I will need it to settle myself into a now unfamiliar routine and place just as much as I think it right to formally recognise that what is offered before God and the people may need the ‘babel-fish’ of the Holy Spirit to speak into people’s hearts and minds.
But what words to use? (They might not get the Hitch-Hikers reference, or feel it appropriate!)
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” is true, but it’s a bit formal and stuffy for me.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD” (Psalm 19:14) is in the same league.
I’ve heard some lovely prayers from pulpits over the years, often thought I should ‘write that one down’ for future reference, but I never have.
So, as I ponder something that has authenticity for me (which may I realise be different in different circumstances), if you feel able to share some of your favourite prayers before preaching, I’d really welcome your encouragement and guidance.
Prayer before preaching is essential because, without God’s help, we are useless.
In Deuteronomy 32 Moses is no doubt feeling quite a burden. You see, Moses is about to die–and he knows it. He is going to look into the eyes of the covenant community once again. He is going to preach and plead God’s character, promises, and threatenings to them. In the ensuing words of chapter 32 he uncorks one if the heaviest, pastoral, and most passionate sermons in print. Remember, it was this chapter that proved to be the sermon text for Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
How does he begin?
May my teaching drop as the rain….For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! Deu. 32.2-3
The preacher’s burden has never changed, therefore his prayer remains the same. God–may you be pleased to use my words to magnify your name!
Moses knew himself, a dying man preaching to dying men (to use Baxter’s phrase). As a result, he did not long for such temporal and base things like what the crowd would think of him, how they would remember him, or how he would feel saying what needed to be said. Instead, he pleaded the living word of the living God! And in his prayer he struck the flint for God to light up his people with an awareness of God’s awesomeness and sin’s repulsiveness. Oh, that more preachers would preach a deep awareness of their own mortality as well as God’s eternality!
Whether you are stepping into the pulpit tomorrow or will be in the pews tomorrow, this is they type of prayer that you can pray for the sermon: “May this teaching drop as the rain…may the name of the Lord be proclaimed, may he ascribe greatness to our God!
The best part about this: God answered the prayer. Read the sermon; it drips with God-centeredness.
And now, Lord… grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word. —Acts 4:29
Here is a prayer by the late great African-American attorney, songwriter, and Professor of Creative Literature at Fisk University, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), from the first and third stanzas of his poem-prayer-sermon entitled, “Listen, Lord – A Prayer:”
O Lord, we come this morning
Knee-bowed and body-bent
Before Thy Throne of Grace.
O Lord – this morning –
Bow our hearts beneath our knees,
And our knees in some lonesome valley.
We come this morning –
Like empty pitchers to a full fountain,
With no merit of our own.
O Lord – open up a window of Heaven,
And lean out far over the battlements of Glory,
And listen this morning.
And now, O Lord, this man of God,
Who breaks the Bread of Life this morning –
Shadow him in the hollow of Thy hand,
And keep him out of the gunshot of the Devil.
Take him Lord – this morning –
Wash him with hyssop inside and out,
Hang him up and drain him dry of sin.
Pin his ear to the wisdom-post,
And make his words sledge hammers of Truth –
Beating on the iron heart of sin.
Lord God, this morning –
Put his eye to the telescope of Eternity,
And let him look upon the paper walls of time.
Lord, turpentine his imagination,
Put perpetual motion in his arms,
Fill him full of the dynamite of Thy power,
Anoint him all over with the oil of Thy Salvation,
And set his tongue on fire. Amen.
I would have liked to hear the sermon he preached after praying that prayer!
Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ. —Colossians 4:13