I Prayed for My Preaching
I had been preaching for more than two decades, and I should have been at the top of my game. The church I served ran up to 1,500 on Sunday mornings, and the live telecast of our services covered a fair portion of several states. Most of my colleagues thought I had it made, and if invitations to speak in other churches were any sign, they thought I could preach.
But I didn't.
My confidence was taking a beating as some of the leaders let me know repeatedly that my pulpit work was not up to their standards. Previous pastors carried the reputation of pulpit masters, something I never claimed for myself. To make matters worse, we had numerous vacancies on staff and my sermon preparation was suffering due to a heavy load of pastoral ministry. But you do what you have to do. Most days, my goal was to keep my head above water. Every day without drowning became a good day.
That's when I got serious about praying for my preaching.
Each night I walked a four-mile route through my neighborhood and talked to the Father. My petitions dealt with the usual stuff—family needs, people I was concerned about, and the church. Gradually, one prayer began to recur in my nightly pleadings.
"Lord," I prayed, "make me a preacher."
Asking this felt so right I never paused to analyze it. I prayed it again and again, over and over, for weeks.
Now, I was in my fifth pastorate. I owned a couple of seminary degrees. I had read the classics on preaching and attended my share of sermon workshops. I was a veteran. But here I was in my mid-forties, crying out to Heaven for help: "Lord, make me a preacher."
I knew if my preaching improved, if the congregation felt better about the sermons, everything else would benefit. I knew that the sermon is a pastor's most important contribution to the spiritual lives of his members. To do well there would ease the pressure in other areas. So, I prayed.
Then one night, God answered.
Four specific requests
Without warning, in the quietness of a dark night on the city streets, God spoke within me: "What exactly do you mean by that?"
The question hit with such force that I laughed aloud and said, "What a great question. Wonder what I do mean?"
For the rest of my walk, I pondered God's probing of my too-general prayer. I knew I was not asking for public acclaim or to be on anyone's list of great preachers. I just wanted to be effective, to do well what God had called me to do.
Later that night, at home, I listed four specific requests and began to direct them toward the Father.
- I never want to stand up to preach again without a good grasp of the Scripture. I'm tired of not being clear about the text in front of me.
- I want the message from God to have a firm grasp on me, to grip my heart. I want to preach with genuine passion.
- I want a good rapport with the congregation. I'm tired of that "glazed-over" look on the people's faces. I want to make contact with them, to communicate effectively.
- I want to see lives changed. If the point of preaching is for the Word of God to make a difference in people, then it must be in order to ask the Father to give me success in doing it.