|  April 29, 2024

The following article is part of a series of articles that will explore necessary disciplines for preachers. As the title of the series suggests, these disciplines act as foundations for effective preaching. 

A Christian preacher is someone who verbally communicates God’s Word to people. If he is a good preacher, he will start with a biblical text and then do three things: 1) explain it, 2) illustrate it, and 3) apply it. Every preacher must prioritize his preaching ministry and be diligent to set aside ample time to study and prepare his sermon each week.

But prior to his sermon preparation and presentation, the preacher must engage in an intimate devotional life with the Lord. He must develop his devotional life so that the rivers of living water from the Holy Spirit within Him can flow through his entire being, and then exit when he delivers his sermon. Without a thriving, intimate devotional life, the preacher will never experience a long-term, fulfilling ministry.

So, what are the vital elements of a preacher’s devotional life? First and foremost, the preacher should develop the discipline of daily Bible intake. He must have a plan to read the Bible, not for sermon preparation, but for feeding his own mind and soul. Every day, the preacher should spend time in God’s Word, reading it slowly and carefully to allow the Lord to speak to him through Scripture.

I encourage every pastor to read the Bible all the way through at least once a year. I’ve done that for decades. I don’t read the Bible daily primarily to generate sermon ideas, although that does happen at times. Rather, I read the Bible devotionally to hear God’s voice. God is a talker, and He speaks through Scripture. He will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go when you read His Word daily and devotionally. You’ll be reading when suddenly the biblical text will seemingly jump off the page and impress you deep in your mind and soul. God will use a biblical text to encourage you, direct you or convict you. The Bible is a living book through which our living God still speaks. The priority of a preacher’s devotional life is reading his Bible daily to hear God speak to him.

The next element in a preacher’s devotional life is prayer. Prayer is speaking to God and listening to Him speak to you. You should speak to God in several ways as you pray. First, you should praise and worship Him for who He is. I enjoy doing this by praying the names of God. I praise the Lord that He is Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord my healer. As I write this article, I’m battling cancer. Many times I have thanked God that He is my Healer through miracle and medicine. I also praise the Lord that He is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord my Provider. He provides all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. I thank Him for food to eat, clothes to wear and a roof over my head. But most of all I praise the Lord that my name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Praising and worshiping the Lord is the best part of your devotional life! You can praise the Lord by using these and other biblical names for the Lord.

You should also pray for the needs of others, which is called intercession. I have a list of people I pray for regularly. Some are sick, others are discouraged, and many have family problems. When people ask me to pray for them, I make a note and then call out their name and need to the Lord.

We should also pray for leaders. We should pray for those who lead us in our churches, and also those who lead us politically. Instead of criticizing leaders, pray for them and ask God to give the guidance. I believe they will lead better if you will pray for them!

Another way to enhance your devotional life is by reading good devotional books. My favorite is Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon. I have the M&E app on my iPhone. Every day Spurgeon gives amazing devotionals based on various Scriptures. Each time I read one, God speaks to me and touches my heart and mind. Spurgeon died over 130 years ago, but he still speaks to me and many others through his devotional writings.

I also enjoy singing to the Lord during my devotional time. I love Christian music. I enjoy taking a hymnal, or a list of newer Christian worship songs, and just singing those songs to the Lord. Singing to the Lord fulfills my soul’s desire to worship and adore the Lord Jesus. If you can’t play an instrument, just worship the Lord a cappella.

I encourage you to do one more thing. After you read your Bible, praise the Lord, pray, read a devotional and sing to the Lord, take time to just sit quietly and allow His Holy Spirit to speak to you. Be still and know that He is God. In those moments of sacred silence, the Holy Spirit will speak to you. He will prompt you, encourage you, calm your fears, direct your path, and fill your mind and soul. Sometimes He will speak through a profound silence through which He is assuring you that all is well in your life, your family and your ministry.

Preacher, a day without drawing near to God is a wasted day. Do not neglect time alone with the Lord Jesus. Go to a secluded place and get alone with the Lord. Get your Bible and start reading it. Learn to pray and talk with the Lord. Praise Him according to the names ascribed to Him in Scripture. Pray for the needs of others. Sing to the Lord. Praise Him for Who He is. Read good devotionals. And then learn to be still and quiet so you can hear Him behind you saying “This is the way, walk in it.”

I promise you this, if you talk with God, He will talk with you!

Steve Gaines is the Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

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