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The Prayers that Sandwich Preaching

May 29, 2008

Some thoughts on public prayers before and after preaching:

1) I don’t always pray publicly at the beginning of a sermon.

On reflection, my final decision is influenced by several factors:
a) Has the preaching only just been prayed for? If so, I probably don’t need to repeat it.
b) Is there a particular need for focus? With a lot of commotion – musicians still leaving the stage, congregational chatting(!) or a boisterous song beforehand – it can be good to pray to settle things down and lay down a ‘marker’ introducing a new phase of the service.
c) How much time do I have?

2) The opening prayer, if any, should be brief and probably well prepared.

Obviously, not the place to ramble! Beware: don’t introduce your sermon in the prayer!

3) I tend to always close with a prayer, precisely because I want the congregation to finish by connecting with God, not with me.

Since it is God that they (and I) now have to contend with because of the message, leading in a follow up prayer helps everyone get started. Sometimes I pre-prepare this final prayer. More often, I go extemporaneous. I find that I’m so ‘in the flow’ after preaching that prayer comes easily.

4) Typically, most congregations will close the service with a benediction after the final song.

Always check this beforehand if you are a visiting preaching. Ask: how does your service normally conclude? Its worth deciding on your benediction beforehand, putting a marker in your bible etc, rather than scuffling around during the final song.

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3 comments

  1. Great tips. I also have a quick time of prayer before the Bible reading too.

    I may just leave silence for people to prepare themselves to read God’s Word or just a pray that God reminds us how sacred a moment this is.

    This helps the reading of God’s own word take precedence in the meeting. I’ve heard some churches stand too which I think is helpful.


  2. I think that it is helpful to pray at the beginning of a sermon. It is my normal practice to pray after reading the passage. I also want to read the passage myself as that helps put me in the proper frame of mind and I believe that my reading of the text with emphasis helps prepare the congregation to understand its message. The act of publicly praying before preaching is an acknowledgement of our absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit to enable us to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). It reminds the congregation of the sacredness of preaching. At the same time, I do not believe that the prayer should not be generic; it should in some way be specific to the text. While it may not “introduce the sermon”, in some specific way it should help prepare the hearers for the Word that they are about to hear. Even Jesus prayed publicly with a view to preparing his hearers for what was to follow (John 11:42).

    Colin, I appreciate all you do to make your blog so helpful and instructive. God bless you!


  3. I’m pretty sure that I’ve prayed before every sermon and after each conclusion.

    It reminds me of our need for God’s help in understanding the text and then at the end it’s a reminder that we need God’s help to be doers and not merely hearers of the Word.



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