In Mark 9:29, the Lord reminded His ineffective and frustrated disciples of their need to pray when He told them, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” They had been seeking without success to cast the demon out of a boy with a dumb spirit. They had failed to pray. Gospel preaching without prayer will also be ineffective.
The gospel preacher will soon recognize prayer as vital to effective gospel preaching. He may feel overwhelmed with his responsibility and his inability. Of course he wilt seek grace to present the message clearly and with power He should guard against a tendency to be too concerned about what others think of his ability or presentation. It is easy to be taken up only with personal need and overlook the far greater need of the lost in the audience.
In John 4, the disciples went into Samaria to buy food while Jesus remained by Sychar’s well. Though weary, He spoke to the woman at the well. As the disciples returned, she left her waterpot and went into the city to bring others to her Savior. The disciples were focused on their personal need for food. Could not one or two have gone into the city to attend to the matter for the entire band? Even as they spoke with the Lord Jesus, they remained focused on themselves while He observed the woman returning with citizens of the city. She knew the needs of her neighbors to know her Savior and was focused on that! Jesus said to His disciples as the Samaritans approached. “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (Vs 35). While the preacher prays for needed grace for himself, he must also focus on the needs of the lost. He will then pray earnestly for them.
Prayer by the Preacher
As he prepares to preach, the preacher ought first to think about his audience and those to whom he will be preaching. He will not likely know beforehand everyone who will be present, but he ought to know some who may be there. Prayer is too often general in character. It should be explicit, for specific persons and needs. This requires exercise and involves meditation and study.
The Spirit of God often gives a preacher a burden for a specific person. The preacher may have some idea of the needs of those on his heart, and this will help him select the subject to be preached. Are they careless? They need to be awakened! Warn them about the judgment of God ahead. Remind them of the need to put salvation foremost, lest they miss their time of opportunity. Are they concerned? Preach to them about their sinfulness so they may understand their problem is guilt in God’s sight. This will produce conviction. Are they already convicted? Stress their personal helplessness. Tell them of the Savior and His work on their behalf.
The preacher who considers the needs of souls in his audience will pray for them individually and for guidance to speak to their specific needs. This will produce earnestness and fervency in his preaching. The preacher may find that, if a soul in the audience is spoken to, it may not be the one he had in mind. God, in His sovereignty saves whom He will in His own way and in His own time, apart from the thoughts or ability of the preacher Mr. Lorne McBain often pointed out that the one the preacher had in mind was the “decoy,” while the one who was spoken to was the “target” the Lord had in mind.
Prayer about the Message
There is a difference between a “sermon” and a “message.” A sermon may be accurate, instructive and helpful to the listeners. A message goes beyond instructive teaching. It is from God to the specific need of the occasion, whether to the audience at large or to a specific individual in that audience. A sermon may contain within it a “message” for one or more individuals. The prophets of the Old Testament had to have a “message” from God or they must keep silent. The gospel preacher will also require a “message” from God for his audience.
The preacher should ask the Lord to assist him in preparing the message. He must have divine guidance as he selects the Scriptures to be included in the message and prepares his points. He will need to get the message into his own soul first, and he will require ready recollection of the elements of the message and clarity when he is speaking. More importantly, he will require the power of God, the unction of the Holy Spirit, with him as he speaks. These are matters he can specifically pray for.
Prayer for the Preacher
Prayer for the gospel preacher by Christians in the audience both before and during the gospel meeting is also vital. Another has said, “No prayer, no power; little prayer, little power; much prayer, much power” This is a principle we must ever remember.
When the preacher has finished and the audience has departed, prayer is still essential that the Spirit of God will preach over again the message to those who heard it. The enemy will seek to snatch away the good seed (see Luke 8:12), but the Holy Spirit can thwart him. It is well to water the seed that has been sown with prayer.
In addition to praying for God’s blessing in salvation upon the Word preached after a specific gospel meeting, we ought to remember the Lord’s words in Luke 10:2, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” Certainly, all recognize the need for more full time “laborers” in “the field” (the world). Should we not also see in our Lord’s words the call to each believer to become involved in that “labor?” Prayer will beget exercise; then there will be a message; the message must be preached. God has promised regarding His Word in Isa. 55:11 that, “It shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”