On Fridays we’ve been looking at a prayer from the Valley of Vision titled “A Minister’s Preaching.” Today we’ll look at this section:
Give me assistance in preaching and prayer,
with heart uplifted for grace and unction.
Present to my view things pertaining to my subject,
with fullness of matter and clarity of thought,
proper expressions, fluency, fervency,
a feeling sense of the things I preach,
and grace to apply them to men’s consciences.
Keep me conscious all the while of my defects,
and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.
In an earlier post on Expectations, I told about a man who said that he wished he could be a pastor so he could study the Bible all day. Obviously, there is far more to pastoral work, and my response to him was that I had to fight for the time to study. You may feel that way too. But there’s another battle that we fight: the battle to include God in our study.
See, it’s easy to pull the books out, fire up the computer, and work on the passage we’ll preach and crafting the sermon. But the Puritan writer reminds us we need God through the entire process. We know this, but it’s good to be reminded. It’s good to have the opportunity to recalibrate our habits if we’ve gotten used to launching out on our own.
There are several requests in this part of the prayer: First, there is the confession that we need God’s help. It rightly acknowledges our insufficiency to delve into spiritual truth without God’s aid.
Having done that, he next asks God for specific ways in which we need help. He asks for insight, for an understanding of the passage. He asks for guidance in choosing the right way to express what he has learned. He wants to apply the passage to his own life, and he wants God’s help in applying it to the lives of the people. He desires to do more than educate. He wants to stir his listeners, to reach into their hearts.
And finally, he asks that God would protect him from pride. Pride is a killer.
Early in my ministry there were two young men in our church who were preparing for pastoral work. They spoke in our prayer meeting on successive Wednesday nights. The first spoke humbly. The second, well, he did not. Who do you think was most effective?
There’s an old story about a young man who preached for the first time. Perhaps you’ve heard it. He entered the pulpit with an air of self-sufficiency and it went downhill quickly. At the end of the service, the veteran pastor met him and told him “If you had gone up like you came down, you would have come down like you went up.”
Public people are subject to pride and self-sufficiency. Involving God from the time we first open our books to prepare through the time we close our sermon is a help not only in beating back that monster, but in having God speak to our people.
I hope you’ve had a great week of study and that on the Lord’s Day you will experience his help in ministering his word. God bless you!