The Role of Prayer in Preaching


Pastors pray and ask others to pray for their preaching. A pastor and a sermon saturated in prayer are better than talent and a golden word processor absent a daily and intimate communication with God. We must ask God’s guidance in our preparation, God’s Spirit in our delivery and God’s presence and conviction on the listener. And we must ask the listener to pray for the preacher, and for himself. Prayer should be, must be, everywhere in our preaching.

E.M. Bounds (1835-1913) was a chaplain and later pastor who filled his life with prayer. Every morning from 4:00 until 7:00 a.m. he prayed. He wrote several books on prayer and when he prayed publicly he was renowned for the power and authority of his prayers. Bounds wrote, “Light praying will make light preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong [the God who answers prayer does this]… and makes it stick.”

We often talk of aspects of sermons while leaving out the central element of prayer. We’ll talk about the content and its accuracy, its delivery and rhythm, and the balance of revelation and application for a given teaching. Yet without prayer, preaching is really just talking.

George Truett (1867-1944), who was pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas for 46 years, prayed each evening from 7:00 p.m. to midnight. A passionate evangelist, he prayed to Christ that he would be used to win others for Him and prayed for the most as well. He kept notebooks with the names of people he prayed for and spoke often in his messages of his prayers.

How is your own prayer life? Do you spend time daily with God in prayer? Is it a passing moment, between waking and breakfast, or in the tired part of the evening before bed? Is prayer a priority in your day? Great praying preachers spend a hour or more in prayer daily, shunning the television and their iPod in favor of time alone with the Almighty.

There is little training on the vital link between prayer and preaching. The book Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds is one of the greatest written works on prayer available to pastors today. Bounds consistently uses the word “saturated” to describe the prayer of a pastor. A church, a life, a sermon and a leader saturated in prayer.

Dr. Alvin VanderGriend, author of several excellent books on prayer, says of the pastor and prayer, “By prayer, we invite the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts and lives, to impress us with the truths of a passage. The sermon needs to be born of prayer and bathed in prayer. The Holy Spirit knows the needs of my listeners, and He will reveal to me the things that they need to hear. Then when we deliver the sermon, the Holy Spirit comes in response to our prayerful invitation and anoints us with power and freedom.”

Did you know that the Bible is, in fact, about 10% prayer? The Bible is filled with ideas and promises we can claim in prayer. The prominence of prayer in Scripture cannot be reminds us that God desires this daily, constant, intimate contact between Himself and His children. Today, resolve to make prayer a priority in your life and in your teaching.

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Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.