A Minister’s Preaching, Part 5

With the exception of last Friday, I’ve been looking at a prayer called “A Minister’s Preaching” that comes from the book The Valley of Vision. These prayers, written by Puritan pastors, cover all facets of personal and pastoral life. I regularly read from some of these prayers as our congregation prepared to observe the Lord’s Table. I also kept a copy of this prayer in my Bible to use to prepare my own heart before I preached.

The first discussion of this prayer can be found here, the second here, the third here, and the fourth here. This will be the final look at this prayer.

If you’ve been reading along, the following is the text of the prayer. If this is your first time reading “A Minister’s Prayer,” let me encourage you to read it two or three times before you read my comments:

First, notice the confession of his need of God’s help. It’s impossible to understate how much we need God’s help when we preach. We need God’s help in choosing what we preach, in preparing what we preach, and in presenting what we have studied. We need help in gaining the attention of our audience with an appropriate introduction, and bringing the sermon to a conclusion that calls for (or summarizes) a desired response. We need help when we preach.

Next, notice that the author expresses a desire to be spiritually fit.

None of us is perfect. We all struggle with sin. While we should understand that when God is using us he is using a flawed vessel, we should also want to be a “pure channel of (his) grace.” So we should care for the condition of our own souls if we want to speak to others. When we do, we are instruments of refreshment, like the cool clear water pictured above.

Finally, he asks that God would “Help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way.” I don’t know what the author of this prayer considered a “defective way.” I can only guess, so I will.

It is possible to package the truth in such a way that we treat it casually or carelessly. I once heard a man preach and talk about “that cat, Jesus.” He later referred to God by saying, “He’s one smart dude!”

I’m sorry, but that diminishes that which should be elevated and revered. It may sound cool and hip, but I can’t recall anywhere that the Scripture calls us to be cool and hip.

Listen, a lot of preachers use humor in their preaching. I know I did. I hope I used it appropriately and it was not distracting. But attempting to be funny or feeling that we need to underscore each point with a joke treats “excellent matter in a defective way.”

I was once at a Christian conference center where the preacher would make a point that was often very probing. But then before you had too long to think, he would make a wisecrack, show a funny video, or do something that moved you from a reflective moment to being entertained.

Why do we preachers do that? Is our view of God so weak that we lack confidence that the Holy Spirit can minister through an honest, winsome-yet-serious presentation of the Word? Are we reluctant to be appropriately serious for fear of turning off our audience?

Well, this is a great prayer, and it has been so helpful in reminding me of my need and my goal in preaching over the years. May God bless you as you preach and/or teach this Lord’s Day.

It’s a privilege, isn’t it?

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