It’s what every pastor wants from our Sunday sermons (or talks, messages, homilies – take your pick).
We want to have impact. We want the message to stick. We want the words we speak to help people follow Jesus more closely.
Sermons aren’t just about Sunday. Preaching God’s Word is supposed to help people live better lives Monday through Saturday.
A few years ago I had one of those “aha” moments in which I realized that despite all the work, prayer and study to prepare my Sunday messages, there was one step I was missing that could really make them stick.
And that step can be stated in three simple words.
Pray on Monday
Yes, it’s that simple.
Pray on Monday.
If you’re a pastor like me, Monday is a down day – at least emotionally, if not an actual day off.
In preparation for my Sunday messages, I work, study and pray that God will use my words about His Word to have staying power with my congregation.
But Monday is my day. My Sabbath. My “leave me alone” day.
A few years ago I was kicking back on a well-deserved Monday off, when this question popped into my head and heart, “Why aren’t you praying about your Sunday message today?”
That was a weird idea, since the message was already “in the can” as they say, so I dismissed it. But the nagging thought wouldn’t go away. So I paused and considered the implications of it.
Don’t Be AWOL On Monday
“Why wasn’t I praying for the Sunday message?” I wondered. After all, as I’m preparing for it I pray constantly that it will have impact in people’s lives beyond the time they’re in the service.
Then, here I am on Monday, the first full day on which congregation members can put Sunday’s message into practice, but I’m AWOL in my prayers for them.
So I started doing that day what I’ve done most Mondays since. I pray for the people in my congregation as they’re at work, school, at home caring for kids – whatever their day may bring – that the Holy Spirit will bring his Word into their life when they need it the most.
As a small church pastor, I have the advantage of knowing most of the names of the people who heard my Sunday message, so I pray for people by name as they come to mind. I especially pray for those who I know are struggling with the issue that was raised on Sunday.
It’s not a long prayer. I won’t pretend I’m so holy that I spend hours every Monday in deep intercession. Sometimes I just take a moment or two. But I try to remember to do it every Monday.
Can God Really Work When I’m Not In the Room?
After I started this Monday routine, I felt convicted that the reason I hadn’t been doing it before, in addition to simple ignorance, was a little bit of arrogance.
I knew God could impact a person’s life while I was preaching a sermon to them, but I didn’t follow through on the idea that God could use that same message to impact their life (this is embarrassing) when I wasn’t in the room with them.
When I thought that through, it felt like a big rebuke from the Lord. “Do you really think I need you to be in the room with them in order for me to use Sunday’s sermon to impact a person’s life?” God seemed to be saying. “After all, I’m with them on Monday. Isn’t that good enough?”
So I let the arrogance go (that arrogance anyway – I still have other issues God is working with me on) and I asked God to do something special. I asked God to use his Word from yesterday’s message to minister to the congregation today.
What are the results? I have no idea. As we’ve talked about before, some things can’t be measured.
But I know this. God’s Word is true. It will accomplish his will. And praying for that to happen at the time it’s most needed in people’s lives is never wasted.
Plus, it puts me and my efforts on the periphery, and God and his work closer to the center, where he belongs.
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