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Praying Your Way Into the Pulpit

October 10, 2007

I’ve just been reading an excellent article by James E Roccup, professor of Homiletics at Master’s Seminary. As well as being a biblically grounded paper, “The Priority of Prayer in Preaching” also contains numerous quotes which are particularly poignant on the connection between preaching and prayer. Here are a few of them, punctuated with a few pictures from our church vestry (where many a precious prayer time has been enjoyed before a service).

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“All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our closets. We grow, we wax mighty, we prevail in private prayer.” (Charles Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students)

Strange it is that any discussion of preaching should take place outside the context of believing prayer. We have not prepared until we have prayed. . . We cannot represent God if we have not stood before God. It is more important for me therefore to teach a student to pray than to preach. (David Larsen, The Anatomy of Preaching)

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During the week . . . locked up with my books, . . . study and . . . communion mingle as I apply the tools of exegesis and exposition in . . . open communion with the Lord. I seek His direction, thank Him for what I discover, plead for wisdom and insight, and desire that He enable me to live what I learn and preach. A special burden for prayer begins to grip my heart on Saturday evening. Before I go to sleep, I . . . spend one final time going over my notes. That involves an open line of communication with God as I meditatively and consciously offer my notes up to the Lord for approval, refinement and clarity. I awake Sunday morning in the same spirit of prayer. Arriving at the church early, I spend time . . . in prayer, then join elders who pray with me for the messages. On Sunday afternoon, I go through a similar time of reviewing my evening message prayerfully. (John MacArthur, The Master’s Seminary Journal)

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The preacher must be a man of prayer. . . . He should pray for his messages . . . soak them in prayer, . . . pray as he goes into the pulpit, pray as he preaches insofar as that is possible, and follow up his sermons with prayer. . (Faris Whitesell, The Art of Biblical Preaching)

For me, it is of primary importance that all my preparation be done in the context of a praying spirit . . . looking to the Lord and depending on the grace of His illuminating and enlivening Spirit. This is punctuated by specific ejaculations and periods of petition for both exposition and application. . . (Sinclair Ferguson, quoted in Bodey, Inside)

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This, and what experience God so far has given me in preaching and prayer, has brought a conviction. Should I ever write a book on essentials for preaching, I know now that I would devote at least a third of it to spiritual preparation in matters such as prayer. This would be the first third. (R Kent Hughes, Liberating Ministry From the Success Syndrome)

(For those who will no doubt ask: the third picture is a painting of Christopher Anderson, the founding pastor of Charlotte Chapel in 1808. The final picture shows a couple of the photographs on the walls of previous senior pastors: Gerald Griffiths and Alan Redpath here)

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9 comments

  1. Great quotes! but where is E.M.Bounds – Master of prayer as the means for proclamation?
    “This divine unction is the one distinguishing feature that separates true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting truth. It backs and interpenetrates the revealed truth with all the force of God. It illumines the Word and broadens and enrichens the intellect and empowers it to grasp and apprehend the Word. It qualifies the preacher’s heart, and brings it to that condition of tenderness, of purity, of force and light that are necessary to secure the highest results. This unction gives to the preacher liberty and enlargement of thought and soul — a freedom, fullness, and directness of utterance that can be secured by no other process.”
    —Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds


  2. Do you really mean 1908 for Christopher Anderson? The clothes in the picture look more like the early 1800s.


  3. I too was looking for some E M Bounds quotes. I have one of his books, I think the title is “Preacher and Prayer” or something similar. I re-read it from time to time to help keep my priorities in order.


  4. Milton, nice spot. Since we’re coming up to the 200th anniversary next year, that would be 1808. This must be typos week for me…

    That’s a super quote from Bounds. His volumes on prayer are gold dust, aren’t they?


  5. [...] Colin Adams at Unashamed Workman collected some apropos quotes concerning pastors praying their way into the pulpit. [...]


  6. Great quotes and a great reminder of our dependency in preaching.

    I’m reminded of Elijah & the prophets of Baal whereby he asked God to rain down fire on his altar. In many ways, we need God to work a miracle or our preparation is to no avail.


  7. Colin,
    Such a good post. Like the quotes and the pictures. It was good to read this today.


  8. [...] preparation in matters such as prayer. This would be the first third.(Thanks to Colin Adams, Unashamed Workman, for this quote) Is he ever right!  Yet, I missed this for a number of years.  Oh I [...]


  9. Everyone of these quotes is the very reason why I am doing my D.Min. project on developing a personal prayer strategy to support my expository preaching ministry. I have read a stack of books on preparing an expository message, but very few detail how the preacher ought to prepare himself through prayer.



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