Humbert Romans (1194–1277) a Dominican friar, looked to the act of preaching as an act of worship from the preacher to God. He believed that the preacher needed to be saturated in prayer and study to prepare himself to preach the Word of God.Hughes Oliphant Old, The Medieval Church, vol. III, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 403. This is why the time we set aside to prepare a message is critical to our preaching. How can we expect our congregation to actively worship God by listening and taking seriously the preaching of the Word if we have not taken seriously the time to prepare? Do we as preachers truly see what we do as an act of worship? If so we must surrender our time of preparation to the Lord.
Preparing in Prayer
This means with each sermon we surrender in prayer! We pour ourselves out throughout the process of preparing a sermon. How we pray prior to preaching or teaching the Word of God reveals our heart about ministry. Anyone can give a speech on what they think the text is saying. However, if we truly believe we are called by God to preach His Word why wouldn’t we surrender to Him in prayer throughout to guide us in our study and give us wisdom in the teaching of His inspired Word to be used to teach, rebuke, and train! We should also seek the Lord in prayer to continue to convict us of sin and reveal to us our own blind spots. How dare we try to preach something that we ourselves don’t believe or have not thought through in our own walk with God! We should actively be pursuing sanctification, understanding that we in the pulpit need to hear and be reminded of the Words of the Lord just as much as those in the pew. Yet, we should also pray that the Holy Spirit goes before us to convict of sin and reveal the glory of God to those before us. It is for God’s kingdom that we go out as messengers of His gospel, teachers of His instruction, and shepherds of His people. It is for His kingdom not our own and, we should be humble enough to know the fruits of our labors are made possible through the grace of the Creator. I truly believe that if we are serious about our time of prayer with God that not only will our preparation grow, but our passion will as well! When our walk with the Lord is marked by utter dependence on Him, we can’t help but be passionate about what we study, and we can’t help but see the dire need of God’s revelation. When we bow down in this manner and surrender to God we will no longer preach to make ourselves sound better, but we will stand and proclaim as an act of worship to our all-powerful, sovereign, Holy God!
Preparing in Study
If our prayer life reveals our heart in ministry then our study (by no surprise) reveals our mentality. We should have the mindset that the time spent in study and crafting of a sermon is to be done to the Lord. It is by no surprise we see throughout the scriptures to honor God with our mind. How and what we study will influence how and what we teach. We can’t expect our listeners to engage in a worshipful mindset as they listen to the preaching of the Word if we ourselves have not engaged with a worshipful mindset as we studied the very scriptures we proclaim. If we want to worship as we prepare which we should then we have to prepare to do this in a sacrificial manner. This commitment is not always an easy one because the truth is this is not a day or even a week-long commitment. The reality is that this is a lifelong mentality that extends beyond what we read in our offices. It requires committing to the hard work and using all the tools at your fingertips to further the quality of your study. It involves using technology to further the depth of your study and not shortening the time. It entails that if you are called to preach God’s Word then you are called to prepare it means that if you are able, you should do all you can to prepare. It may mean sacrificing some years of your life to further your education. I’m a strong supporter of attaining a Masters of Divinity, not for receiving the degree, but for the preparation that comes in and out of the classroom. This degree is foundational in preparing individuals in learning the scriptures and learning so that you can adequately teach others. But don’t come just for the degree! Come as an act of obedience to do all you can in preparation to proclaim the Word. If we truly are hungry for the words of scripture then why would we not give our study as a gift to the Lord? It is the pursuit of learning to grow in not just in knowledge but in sanctification. The time we dedicate in our study will impact everything we do in ministry especially the sermon. Our mentality in our study should be one worship. Farmers depend on the harvest they plant each season. However, in farming, if we didn’t put much effort into the planting season we wouldn’t expect much fruit come harvest season. The same can be said about our study. Let us dedicate the time of preparation like we depend on the harvest to come.
Whether it is prayer or studies the time we each go through to prepare for our sermon should be done with the mindset to worship our Lord with our best. Let us not just check the boxes or go through the motions. Let us prepare as if lives depend on it because they do. Each sermon we preach is being preached to precious souls created by God. We are caretakers of the soul and we should strive to give our best to the God who created and saved each one! Let us give our best for the King we proclaim!
Jim DiLavore is the Research Assistant for the Dean of the School of Preaching and Intake Coordinator for the Center for Text Driven Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is also the Pastor-in-Residence at Pleasant Run Baptist Church in Colleyville, Texas.
|↑1||Hughes Oliphant Old, The Medieval Church, vol. III, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 403.|