What do I pray for?

How does one prepare to preach?  I have been thinking about that a lot lately and there are some more posts to come about reflecting on how I prepare so I can work out how to do it better.  Preaching is about the Word of God, but I think it has to start with prayer.  Someone asked me once, “If you have 5 minutes left before you preach, do you look over your notes or do you pray?”  I still don’t really know what the answer to that should be.   But I do know that prayer has to be an essential part of preparation throughout the whole process.

What do we pray?  Here is the prayer I use all the time.  I know using formulated prayers is not the vogue, but this prayer articulates what I need better than I can.

My Master God,
I am expected to preach today,
but go weak and needy to my task;

Yet I long that people will be edified with divine truth,
that an honest testimony will be given for you.

Give me assistance in preaching and prayer,
with heart uplifted for grace and passion.

Present to my view things pertinent to my subject,
will fullness of matter and clarity of thought,
proper expressions, fluency, fervency,
a deep emotion to accompany the words I speak,
and grace to apply them to people’s consciences.

Keep me conscious all the while of my defects,
and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.

Help me to offer a testimony for yourself,
and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting your mercy.

Give me freedom to open up the sorrows of your people,
and to set before them comforting consolations.

Give your power to the truth preached,
and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.

May your people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted,
and help me to use the strongest arguments
drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings,
that people might be made holy.

I myself need your support, comfort, strength, holiness,
that I might be a pure channel of your grace,
and be able to do something for you.

Give me then refreshment among your people,
and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way,
or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a redeemer,
or be harsh in treating Christ’s death, its design and end,
from lack of warmth and fervency.

And keep me in tune with you as I do this work.

Amen.

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