Recently I’ve been reading Arturo Azurdia III’s book ‘Spirit-Empowered Preaching’ (Mentor, 2010) and have been reminded of some very important truths. What has been most helpful to me as a preacher was to be reminded of the great promise and hope of God’s power when we pray. Additionally, I have been struck with how important it is for the congregation to pray for their preachers, coming expectantly to worship to receive from Christ in each sermon. As the Apostle Paul commanded the Ephesian Christians to pray at all times,for one another, and especially for the preaching ministry of the Gospel of grace:
ESV Ephesians 6:18-20: …Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
The Apostle Paul commands Christians to pray at all times, for one another, and also that “words may be given…boldly” in the proclamation of the Gospel. This call to pray is that the Gospel would go forth boldly from lips and sink into the people’s ears by God’s power and the working of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
I would like to share a few quotations with you from Pastor Azurdia’s chapter on Preaching and the Man of God (pgs. 129ff). Please read carefully and prayerfully whether you are a preacher or a listener to preachers.
“Throughout the Upper Room discourse Jesus is exceedingly consistent: prayer is to be the preoccupation of the man sent out to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
The confession of the apostles was as follows: “We will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4a).
Charles Bridges wrote, commenting on this text from Acts:
“Prayer…is one half of a man’s ministry; and it gives to the other half all its power and success. Without prayer, a minister is of no use to the church, nor any advantage to mankind.”
Bridges continues: The minister sows; and God gives no increase. He preaches; and his words are only like ‘sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal’ (1 Cor. 13:1-3). The minister recites the praises of God; while ‘his heart is far from God’.
It is prayer alone, then, that gives the whole strength and efficacy to our different administrations as ministers of God’s Word. That man ceases, if I may use the expression, to be a public Minister of God’s Word from the time he ceases to pray.”
Calvin Miller wrote similarly:
“The oral side of our career as ministers is visible, but it is never the source of our spiritual power. In fact, our devotional life…is the secret of clout. A friend of mine long ago reminded me that I could not help people if I was always with people….When Harold Fickett, Jr. says, ‘A preacher is the epic poet of his people,’ we must admit that the epic gains its form from silence….Preaching from the silent center is the evidence that we who preach on trust are also living it.
Preaching, in one sense, merely discharges the firearm that God has loaded in the silent place [of prayer]. The successful volley does not mean that we have passed homiletics but rather that we have been with God.”
Edward Payson summarized this aptly: “It is in the [prayer] closet that the [spiritual] battle is lost or won.”
Advice on how to be a faithful preacher (a summary from book):
- Pray for the vitality and power of the Holy Spirit and guard your devotional life from intruders. He writes: “For this reason, barring emergencies, I do not schedule appointments or receive telephone calls before 1 pm. Like all hard-working pastors, if I pray only when people and circumstances allow it to be convenient, I would rarely pray. To be sure, this kind of priority on prayer can arouse accusations such as the following: ‘Our pastor is unapproachable. It is difficult to get close to him. He is not very accessible.’ Over time, however, maturing Christians will come to appreciate the value of such a discipline. They themselves will be the benefactors of it. Until such a time, a preacher must rest in the conviction that the protection and cultivation of his own inner life is in the best interest of the congregation.”
- The Minister of God’s Word must prepare himself for preaching by the means of diligent study of the Scriptures. “The Gospel preacher can take great confidence in the fact that the Spirit of God speaks effectually through His rightly divided Word.”
- A minister should daily recognize and confess his inabilities, weakness, and place his total dependence and trust upon God. “The preacher must recognize, and even revel in, his own human inabilities….God will have no competitors. For this reason He manifests His power through weakness. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Gospel preacher to recognize the overpowering nature of his inabilities; to be able to say with Paul: ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ (2 Cor. 2:16). ‘The strength of the pulpit is in its own conscious weakness, and in God’s almighty power’.”
Let us pray for our preachers that they will be filled with God’s powerful Spirit, that they will be faithful to the hard work of painstaking exegesis of the word of God, and that they would pray, pray, pray. Let us pray that they would be comfortable in their weaknesses, and strong in their trust and dependence upon the Lord Christ! (Eph. 6:10-13)
Let us pray that our preachers would be able to say that almost half of their ministerial labors is invested in study, meditation and learning God’s Word, and that the other half would be willingly and eagerly invested in prayer for the preaching and the people of God.
May we glorify Christ and build His Church by being useful, faithful, self-forgetful, and Christ-centered!
In Christ’s Love,