Prayer touches the scepter of the Lord of the universe. In His hand is “the heart of the king, and as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Prov 21:1). “Yea before the day was, I am He: and there is none can deliver out of My hand: I will work and who shall reverse it?” (Isa 43:13).
Esther touched the scepter of king Ahasuerus (picturing intercessory prayer) and thus changed the destiny of her people the Jews (Esther 5:2 & 8:3-17). Abraham prevailed in prayer for the salvation of Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom (Gen 18:22-33). Elijah labored fervently in prayer for divine blessing upon a parched land and an undeserving people, and abundance of rain followed (1 Kings 18:42-46).
This subject is heart-searching for all believers and in a special sense for gospel preachers. An attitude of dependence upon God for wisdom, protection, strength, moral preservation and guidance is the normal constant experience of all believers. The gospel preacher, with the noble and holy occupation entrusted to him, will find that times set aside to pray are necessary for his personal sanctification and for his message. Luther said: I have an hour’s sermon before me and thus must spend three hours in prayer.”
Prayer is not an endowment but cultivated intimacy with God. We pray not to make up God’s mind for Him but to learn His mind. He is omniscient, so we do not give Him information, but unburden to Him the information we have received that He may guide us. As prayer enshrouds the preacher and his message, the presence of God is conveyed to the audience. Samuel was such a man of prayer What characterized his mother, characterized him – earnest believing prayer He prayed and God allowed him to see the salvation and restoration of Israel.
Praying while Preparing
Meditation and praying are closely linked. “While I was musing, the fire kindled. Then spake I with my tongue, Lord make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is” (Ps 39:34). It is necessary to pray one’s self into the spirit and matter of our text. The experiences of preaching that lie behind us and the fears of what lies before us are small matters compared with what lies within us. It is while on our knees before God that we can make the text our own. Then, as we preach it, it will come from the heart and personal conviction.
Praying at the Pulpit
While it is customary to pray publicly at the opening of a gospel meeting, it is also an important part of the preaching presentation. While it is an honor to present Christ publicly, it is solemn to speak to the people for God. Is it less important to speak to God for the people? Public prayer will be the extension of private prayer in its feeling and effectiveness.
May I suggest a few helps for prayers at gospel meetings?
Be Easily Heard. As you are leading the audience into the presence of God, it is important that they hear and understand your supplication and thanksgiving.
Pray Don’t Preach. Prayer is addressed to God and should be communication with Him. It should not be talk about God or the cream from the top of your message. Bring your audience into God’s presence in supplication for their salvation and leave them there.
Be Brief. With heads bowed and eyes closed, it is difficult for an audience to maintain attention. Long prayers lose the audience and effectiveness. Pray for the specific need of the unsaved and for God’s blessing upon His gospel. Let your prayers for your personal felt need and confessions and generalities be done at home.
God required the priests of the Old Testament economy to wash their hands before and after all public service. This principal is surely for our learning that before God and His Word we should be clean from contracted defilement before divine service.
Gospel preaching will find the preacher praying several different ways while preparing his message. As Daniel, while reading the prophecy of Jeremiah, he was prostrate before God (Daniel 9). Confession of sin, his own and that of the people are several times mentioned as he prayed. The text he was reading was meditated on and rejoiced oven Praise, thanksgiving, forgiveness and faith in God’s promise occupied his soul in private before God.
The preacher will find himself praying as Nehemiah just before
rising to speak, an ejaculatory prayer, “Remember me 0 my God for good”(Neh 5:19). While preaching, the heart is continually lifted to God to rebuke the enemy as Nehemiah prayed while building the wall for God (Ch. 6:14). Paul reminded the brethren from Ephesus how he had preached and warned with tears, keeping back nothing that was profitable for them. Mow effective is such prayerful, powerful preaching!
As the preacher sits down at the conclusion of his message, no doubt again as Nehemiah, he sends his prayer to heaven, “Remember me, 0 my God, concerning this, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy” (Gb. 13:22). He thus, as a priest, seeks cleansing at the laver, that no defilement may hinder divine blessing upon his service.
May each of us who are responsible to preach the wondrous news of the gospel of Christ, learn the necessity, sweetness and effectiveness of prayer’. “Lord, teach us to pray”