Prayer and the Pulpit

by John Meador

Transformational preaching can't really take place without a transformed preacher.

While I'm amazed at how some people respond to the eloquence and speaking dynamics of preachers we later learn are immoral or unethical, I also can see the disillusionment and empty hope such messengers bring. A transformed preacher, however, doesn't disappoint-he lives out his message. He is not a model for perfection, but is a model of God's maturing, transforming process.

This kind of transforming is shaped in the depths of study and prayer. These twin disciplines were mentioned by the apostles as they began their incredible period of influence over the early church. "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4),

It is no doubt this focus prompted such statements concerning the disciples as: "they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13b). The boldness and confidence of these early apostles point to a vital and life-giving walk with Christ and prayer.

What kind of prayer life goes hand in hand with transformational preaching? In the heat of the battle of spiritual war, with souls on the line, Paul tells us about prayer. In one key verse, he urges us to call down help from heaven in the spiritual battle we face.

Ephesians 6:10-18 is about our spiritual armor, and the culminating verse tells us: "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

Using the acronym of H-E-A-V-E-N, let me give you the six keys of this prayer as a means of "calling down the power of heaven" in our living and preaching.

Humble prayer: "With all prayer and petition." After introducing prayer as a mighty weapon, Paul uses the word "petition" to describe the attitude of the one praying. To petition is "to entreat and request out of need." It means we recognize our inability and weakness-and that we desperately need His strength. My prayer life in my message preparation says much about how much I am trusting God. Much prayer equals much trusting. Of course, the opposite is true as well. How much do you trust God as you prepare?

Enacted prayer; "pray" Here the emphasis is on the voice of the verb. It is middle voice, which means the believer acts upon himself to pray! He disciplines himself, requires himself, and motivates himself to pray because he wants God's blessing on his preaching. But even before that, he prays because he wants God's blessing on his life! Without God's help, I am unable to be changed or bring a life-changing word.

Always prayer:"pray at all times in the Spirit." Paul uses the word "kairos" instead of "chronos" here, which tells us that he means we are to pray at every opportune moment. For the preacher, it means taking advantage of great rushes of insight, as well as maximizing moments where no illumination seems to be taking place. It means going to God at every turn, every point, every illustration, and asking Him for wisdom over and over again as we get ready represent Him each week.

It means going to God instead of going alone to the text.

Vigilant prayer: "be on the alert." The text of Ephesians 6:10-18 clearly demonstrates we are on a battlefield and I know of no one more at war than the preacher! Peter tells us that we are to "be on the alert" because "Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8).

We are to be vigilant against deception, pride, compromise, and a host of temptations that would make our message more about us and less about God! Since our enemy works primarily through the mind (the same mind God seeks to renew), doesn't it make sense that Satan would target the preachers of God's Word?

Enduring prayer: "with all perserverance." Sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do is keep praying when it seems like nothing is happening. The preacher is tempted to become gimmicky to get a response from people. He's tempted to copy the so-called "successful preachers," to turn to manipulation instead of relying on the Word of God to do the work of God. During times like that, I renew my dedication to prayer. I realize God is working in His time and in His way, and while God is working, He is also working on me.

Noble prayer: "and petition for all the saints." Think about it: intercessory prayer for those who will hear your message is one of the most noble things you can do. No one sees but God, but God indeed sees and hears your prayer. And as you pray for your people, you begin to love them even more. Your messages take on the attitude of love and compassion for those you preach to. They can see the difference, and so can you.

It is as you pray for them that God begins to give you the wisdom to best preach and teach-exactly the prescription Paul gives in Colossians 1:28; "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ."

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

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