How To Have An A+ Preacher
(with thanks to E. M. Bounds)
If you are like most Christians, it will not take you long to hear a complaint about the preaching from your pulpit. Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug. If you’re like most, you have a lightning bug preacher. The purpose of this lesson is to teach you how to put lightning in the pulpit.
Begin by understanding this: the problem is not with the preacher. The problem is with us. We do not, as a congregation, seriously commit ourselves to praying for our preacher. Until we do, we will continue to have lightning bugs.
But you are not convinced; let us take this from first principles.
Principles of Prayer
We are talking about the kingdom of God. So the principles of prayer taught in the New Testament are certainly applicable. Let us review them.
You get what you….
In the world, you get what you pay for – at best. In the Kingdom of God, you get what you pray for.
· It is the Father’s good pleasure to give his children whatever they ask for in the name of the Son. So when we complain we don’t have a great preacher, one must ask: did we ask?
· Indeed, it is not only his good pleasure to give us what we ask for – but to give us even more than we ask for! If we ask him for a good preacher, what do you think he will do?
· So what’s going wrong here? James tells us bluntly what our problem is: we don’t ask. And when we do ask, it’s out of the wrong motives – in this instance, I suspect it’s when we complain to God about what we have, rather than asking him to change it.
Who gets heard?
Perhaps you think your prayers might make no difference. After all, there are many others out there; how do I know I’ll be heard?
· James tells us the primary precondition: God listens to the righteous. Not to the eloquent, the righteous. We often hear the negative version of this (“if you’re not living right, He isn’t listening.”) But James puts it in the positive.
· This is a result of the Father and child relationship we have with God. If you are a child of God, will your Father not grant you all good things? And is this not a good thing?
We need to understand what we are doing in praying for the preacher: we are interceding. To intercede is to “stand between” – “inter” meaning between, and “cede” coming from the Latin root for “place.” We are placing ourselves between God the Father and our preacher, and pleading on his behalf. This requires a certain amount of wisdom:
· Intercession is based upon having the mind of Christ; as he intercedes for us, so we should intercede for others. Surely, however, the preaching of the Gospel is dear to the heart of Christ – and therefore he will be quick to hear such a prayer.
· Intercession is the correct Christian reaction to a problem. The incorrect reaction is judgment. So when you feel the urge to judge the preacher for his poor sermons, remember: judge not, intercede always.
· Intercession requires boldness. We are approaching the throne of grace, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This should command our fear and awe, but remember that we are there by our Lord’s command. Intercede with boldness.
Why pray for the preacher?
That may sound like a dumb question. But think about it: before this lesson, did you have any disposition to do so on a regular basis? So let us take a look at why God would want you to pray for your preacher.
Pray for those in authority
We are commanded to pray for those in authority over us. Look at it this way: if I asked you to pray for the local police department and fire department, that they would perform their functions efficiently, honestly and effectively, would you not think that a worthy prayer? As one who recently had the privilege of an unplanned ride in the paramedic wagon, I certainly do.
Now, if that is worthy – to pray for those who have temporal authority over us – how much more is it worthy to pray for those who have spiritual authority over us?
The praying church is fertile ground
For reasons that will become clearer in the next section, God wants us to unite ourselves with our preacher in prayer. Prayer not only appeals to God; it changes us. In communion with God we discern things not readily visible otherwise. God moves in our hearts. Is it just possible that the reason we are not hearing great sermons is that we are not listening?
Holding up the arms
There is a curious incident in the Old Testament. Joshua goes out to fight the Amelekites. As long as Moses hands are upraised, holding his staff, the fight goes well for the Israelites. But when he tires, the battle seems to reverse. So Aaron and Hur hold up Moses’ arms, and the Israelites triumph.
It seems a bit of petty magic, but there is a lesson in here. Moses alone could not triumph; nor Joshua by force. Even the greatest of leaders need to be held up. E. M. Bounds, from whose book The Weapon of Prayer I drew the inspiration for this lesson, illustrates it this way: we are the power poles holding up the electric line of God.
God is jealous for his watchmen
It is no secret that God pays particular attention to those who are appointed watchmen over the church. It is a fearful burden. If this is so close to the heart of God, then should it not be close to the hearts of the children of God?
What shall we pray?
So then, being convinced of the principles of prayer and the need to pray for the preacher, what then shall we pray for? We can get an excellent list from the premier preacher of the early church, Paul. In his letters to the churches, he frequently asks the church to pray for him. Here are the specifics:
Pray that the preacher be delivered from those who are unbelievers. So often the leader of the church is confronted by those who are unbelievers who want to remove the church from the community. The common thought of city governments these days is to get rid of churches as being a drain on the city coffers. Pray for deliverance from such as these.
Pray that the preacher be delivered from wicked and evil men – especially in the church. In every church there will be those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing; we know that. Their chief target will be the preacher. Pray for his deliverance from these men.
Pray that, with the help of Christ, his deliverance from circumstances will be accomplished by the God who works all things together for the good of those who love him.
Pray that God will give him a boldness of spirit so that he will make the mystery of the Gospel plain to all.
Pray that all the church will join in the struggle with him for the cause of Christ - and thus the church be united.
Pray that his service to all the saints will be acceptable to God – not just in preaching, but in all aspects of service.
Pray that the result of these prayers will be so evident that others will give thanks to God and be encouraged to continue praying.
Spread of the Gospel
Pray that the preacher will proclaim the Gospel clearly, so that all might understand it completely.
Pray that God will open a door for the message of Christ on his behalf.
Pray that the message of the Lord will spread rapidly and be honored by all men.