Praying for Sunday’s Sermon Preparation
Praying for the pastor who will preach each Sunday is something many Christians eagerly do each week. We realize that the task of teaching Scripture is a difficult one. Ensuring Scriptural accuracy, adequately serving a wide variety of people ethnically, in gender, generationally, socially, etc., all in one gathering is a daunting task. Doing it every week of the year, sometimes multiple times a week, makes the task even more challenging. Not only are the physical elements of preaching daunting, the spiritual challenges are even more pressing. To think in the terms Paul used, when we preach, we are either an aroma of life producing life, or death producing death: eternity is at stake each time we preach (2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 1 Timothy 4:15, 16). Above all the external challenges, the effectiveness of preaching is ultimately a work God must do in our hearts. That’s what makes praying for the preacher and the work of preaching so essential. And again, many Christians are so faithful to pray for their pastors each week as they preach.
Preparation Prayer Teams
For a number of years I have been honored, encouraged by, and helped by a group of people who have committed themselves to pray for me each week in respect to my preaching. But this group of people have not merely prayed in general for me and my preaching on Sunday, they have taken it a step further and have been to committed to pray for me long before Sunday. I’ve been blessed to have a team of people who commit to pray for me on the days and during the hours that I am preparing to preach on Sunday.
After reading Michal Fabarez’s book, Preaching That Changes Lives, then his subsequent booklet, Praying for Sunday (excellent resources), I was convinced to ask people to pray during the week for my preparation. I cannot begin to tell you how important this has been to me and the difference it makes for Sunday’s sermon.
In the past, I would regularly send out an email detailing when I would be studying during the week and what I would be doing during that time of study. I would often receive encouraging e-mails in return assuring me of the intercessions for this vital time of the week. However, over the past number of months, despite how important this prayer team is to me, I have found it increasingly more and more difficult to get these e-mails out to the team. My e-mail correspondence has dramatically increased over time, and just responding to what comes in barely gets done in a timely manner, let alone crafting additional new e-mail. Consequently, I haven’t been too faithful to the faithful folks who have committed to pray for me each week.
And I see a dramatic difference in the spiritual struggle I face each week in the study.
Using Social Media
My desperation for prayer during the preparation time, and my inability to keep up with sending out e-mail consistently have compelled me to find an alternative approach to keeping people up to date and reminding them of when I’m studying and how they can specifically pray.
Beginning this week, I’m going to be making a concerted shift in how I approach appealing for sermon preparation prayer.
I’ve been actively using social media for a number of years. I’ve Tweeted over 7100 times to over 350 people, all of which is automatically posted to my Facebook page broadcasting to over 1,100 people. Twitter and Facebook have a ubiquitous presence, making it easier now than ever to send a quick note to a wide group of people. Harnessing this approach for the use of prayer during the week seems like a natural and helpful tool.
Rather than sending out a group e-mail each week detailing what I will be doing, I will now start posting to Twitter and Facebook during my study time.
On most weeks, I devote all of Wednesday and half of Saturday to preparing for my Sunday messages. Wednesday is a day of translating the passage, engaging in grammatical and lexical studies of the text(s), and reading commentaries and related materials. My aim is to have the main idea of the passage(s) clearly in view and how the details of the passage all reflect that main idea.
Saturday morning I work on how I will actually preach the passage that I have studied earlier in the week. The gap between my typical Wednesday study and Saturday preparation helps me to have time to mull over the passage and think through applications and illustrations before I sit down to write out the message. When I do begin the sermon preparation process on Saturday it is usually filled with writing and re-writing the sermon theme, thinking through an outline that supports that theme and is faithful to the main idea of the passage. I then write the introduction of the sermon, the conclusion, and begin writing out the body of the message. My aim is to have the bulk of the message completed by mid-day Saturday.
Sunday morning I generally get up quite early and prepare my heart for the day by meditating on the passage, listening to the music we will be singing, thinking through the connections, and praying for every element of the day. I then start reading through and revising my notes for Sunday. By 8:00 a.m. I am sending my manuscript out to our church’s elders and a number of others who will make use of it on the Lord’s Day.
Of course, not every week works out so nicely. Last week was one of those. My preparation time was scattered to many different days and at some very odd hours. I need an easy way to communicate prayer needs for the preparation time.
Rather than compose a number of e-mail each week, I will begin tweeting through the preparation process. It takes only a few seconds and is broadcast to a good-sized group of people, many of whom I know will pray.
Taking advantage of the way Twitter works, I will mark those tweets associated with my sermon preparation time with the hash tag #SWBCSermonPrayer. You can actually search for this hash tag on Twitter, set it as a bookmark on your browser, and come back to it to see how the details and requests for prayer.
Taking this approach will make it easier for me to involve more people in real time for prayer.
I’m grateful for those who pray – I deeply value those who pray. I’m hopeful that this will be a refreshed way to include more people in an easier format for me to update.
As Paul appealed, “brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored . . .” (2 Thessalonians 3:1), so I ask you to pray for me – and for all who are tasked with preaching the word each week.