Prayer is one of the most important aspects of sermon preparation — not only the morning of preaching but all throughout the week as well. Most pastors know this. But when you pray — what should you pray for?
“Whatever comes to mind” is usually not a bad idea. But usually, it’s better to have a structured list to pray through, and then pray whatever comes to mind after praying through your list. This will almost undoubtedly guarantee that you’ll pray more earnestly and effectively.
In this article, I’m going to give you some ideas to pray for your sermon, some from me and some from other preachers. This list is suggestive, not exhaustive: you can, of course, add to it.
Note: A modified version of this article in Microsoft Word format is available for download here: What to Pray Before You Preach.
In his post, What I Pray Before I Preach, H.B. Charles Jr. lists several things he prays during sermon prep. H.B. would be glad to know I have consulted that article many a time before preaching.
Praying Pointers from H.B. Charles Jr.
Praying Pointers from Zack Eswine
Zack Eswine, in his book, Preaching to a Post-Everything World (p. 268), lists out the following praying points for preachers:
Illumination. Psalm 119:18
A message. Ephesians 6:19
An open door. Colossians 4:3
Effectiveness. 2 Thess. 3:1
Clarity. Colossians 4:4
Boldness. Ephesians 6:20
Deliverance. 2 Thess. 3:2
Praying Pointers from Me and Others
I’ve added “and others” because they’re praying pointers I’ve gathered while listening to other preachers talk about what they pray about for their sermon, but I don’t always remember who the original source is, if there is one, or if that even matters. Justification is added for why I pray these things.
Revival. Revival can still happen today, and preaching is a means by which God can use to spark it, so I pray for revival.
That I will forget myself and be myself. I don’t want to come across as insecure or looking for approval in the pulpit. How embarrassing and shameful. I also don’t want to act like someone I’m not. I want to feel free in the pulpit and preach like myself.
Sermon delivery. I’ve been told that I talk too fast when I preach, so I have this in mind when praying. Praying for my sermon delivery also includes my cadence, pitch, volume, and tone. Yes, the efficacy of a sermon derives from the Holy Spirit’s power (that’s why we pray!), but God’s power doesn’t excuse laziness. Content is superior, but sermon delivery matters.
After the sermon (against praise and criticism). Preachers get a ton of praise and criticism. I don’t want the praise to get to my head or the criticisms to get to my heart (a Tim Keller saying? Probably.)
Forgiveness. In case I exegete a text incorrectly or for getting unrighteous anger at people who seem unappreciative of my effort.
That the word will not return void. Isaiah 55:11 says, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” How amazing: there’s never been a sermon preached in the history of the world where the Word did not do the work that God intended for it to do—whether softening, converting, convicting, or even hardening.
That Christ will be exalted. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). Not just seen, but exalted.
A love for my people. I want to love the people I preach to and not just treat them like any-ole audience.
Please prevent me from saying anything inappropriate. I don’t trust myself to not saying anything I shouldn’t. So I pray: “Lord, please prevent me from saying anything stupid, off-putting, rude, or needlessly offensive.” No need to be redundant for an omniscient God, but I am anyway, at least with this prayer.
That God would save sinners. If there is anyone listening to me that is not a Christian, my hope is, through God using the Word preached, they would become a Christian by the end of the sermon.
This list should suffice for now.
Preachers should read Study Bibles and commentaries until their brains hurt, and we should of course work hard on our transition sentences, introductions, conclusions, illustrations, and applications. But we must never overlook the importance of praying for preaching no matter how long we’ve been preaching or how many homiletical tools we know.