There is no chance of fire in the pews if there is an iceberg in the pulpit; and without personal prayer and communion with God during the preparation stages, the pulpit will be cold… To borrow from the marriage ceremony, it is imperative that “what God has joined together, no man should put asunder.” We dare not divorce our preaching from our praying.Alistair Begg
Prayer is essential before preaching. But what should we pray?
What should we pray in preparation for this sober task? In my experience, I actually use an alliterated list of eight prayer requests—all starting with the letter “C.” This list helps me to remember and focus my prayer and my heart before preaching. I pray this list might be helpful to you, the reader, as well.
First and foremost, I pray for Christ’s exaltation in our worship, and that in His exaltation, the lost will be drawn to Him. As Paul writes, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord,” (2 Corinthians 4:5). Indeed, if God the Father has highly exalted Christ and bestowed on Him the name that is above all names (Philippians 2:9), so should we. I pray that every sermon I preach will lift up “Christ crucified” who is “the power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). And I pray that as I preach, the lost will behold Christ in His glory and understand Him as the one and only Way to the Father (John 14:6).
Charisma or Empowerment
Second, I pray for charisma—not in the way world defines it: charisma as celebrated charm that attracts others. That quality is something I lack, and that quality is something preachers do not need. On the other hand, charisma in the Christian sense involves the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. As Spurgeon wrote, “We might as well preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the HolyGhost be with the word, to give it power to convert the soul.” I pray specifically that I will submit to the Spirit’s leadership and depend on the Spirit’s enabling. Indeed, the Word of God in the hands of the Spirit of God can raise dry bones (Ezekiel 37).
Consistency with the Scriptures
Third, I pray that I will proclaim a message that is consistent with the Scriptures. Since “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16), the authority of a preacher’s message must come from the Scriptures, and his message must cohere with the teachings of Scripture. In this vein, I pray that I will “be diligent to present myself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Clarity of Message
Fourth, I pray for clarity of message. The Scriptures should never appear too complex to understand or too academic to apply. And the preacher should never muddy the interpretive waters to make himself appear overly bookish. Preachers should pray that they will make the simple beauty of the gospel and its application evident to all.
Courage to Preach Boldy
Fifth, I pray for courage—courage to preach boldly, courage to speak into the difficult issues of our day, courage to confront sin within and without the church, courage to say the hard things, courage to lead from the pulpit, but most of all, courage not to be ashamed of the gospel. Why? Because, as Paul writes, “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). I pray specifically that God will steel me to “preach the Word; to be ready in season and out of season; to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).
Consecration to God
Sixth, I pray for consecration. I pray that God will sanctify me with His truth before I preach it to you. I pray that I will preach the text to myself. I pray that I will be a holy and usable vessel for Him. And I pray that God will guard my heart and guide my thoughts—and that He would set me apart for His use and glory in the pulpit.
Seventh, I pray for conviction. I pray that the Holy Spirit would actively apply the Scriptures to the lives and minds of those who hear—not only those of the congregation but me as well. Indeed, here is where the congregation can pray for themselves—praying that the Spirit will prepare their hearts to hear from the Lord every week through the proclamation of His Word.
And eighth, every time I preach, I pray for compassion. I don’t know all that everyone is going through. But I pray that I will preach with an awareness of the burdens they carry, of the pain they bear, of the temptations and trials they face. I pray that my words will lay plainly before them the soothing balm of God’s promises and Christ’s gospel—that I would strengthen the weary, encourage the afflicted, and offer healing to the broken.
Finally, I close by praying that the Lord will enable me boldly to “proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
Preaching involves divine enabling. And prayer connects us to the great Enabler. As E.M. Bounds wrote, “The preachers who are the mightiest in their closets with God are the mightiest in their pulpits with men.”
A native of Austell, Ga., Bryan Cribb came to Anderson University following a five-year tenure at Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Ga. Dr. Cribb holds a BA in political science and a BS in mathematics from Furman University in Greenville, S.C. After being called into the ministry, he received his master of divinity in biblical and theological studies and his doctor of philosophy from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. His primary emphasis in PhD work was Old Testament theology, with minor areas of study in New Testament theology and Old Testament languages.
Dr. Cribb is married to Elizabeth, and they have three sons—Daniel Luther, Josiah John, and Nathanael Bryan. Elizabeth is an RN and a stay-at-home mom, who also holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary.