“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”
—2 Timothy 4:2
There are three activities that the Bible portrays as vital in the life of a church: the preaching of God’s Word, the administration of the sacraments, and discipline. It has been said that any congregation that does not have all three faithfully exercised is not a church. If this is true, then our prayers ought to intentionally focus on these three.
When it comes to belief, Paul emphasizes the centrality of God’s Word in preaching: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15).
This teaching led theologian John Calvin to conclude that when “a man has climbed up into the pulpit … it is [so] that God may speak to us by the mouth of a man.” In fact, the Reformed confessions and catechisms teach exactly this. The Westminster Larger Catechism states, “The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of here are three activities that the Bible portrays as vital in the life of a church: the preaching of God’s Word, the administration of the sacraments, and discipline. It has been said that any congregation that does not have all three faithfully exercised is not a church. If this is true, then our prayers ought to intentionally focus on these three.the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners, of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them to Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions, of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”
Or, as the Second Helvetic Confession explains, the Word of God rightly preached is the very Word of God. Because the preaching of the Word of God is vital for spiritual understanding and growth, Christians ought to pray for those who preach and teach. We ought to pray like the father mentioned in Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” In our humanness, Christians live with the tension of belief in God and His truth and unbelief; the Word of God faithfully preached draws us nearer to Him and strengthens our belief.
Additionally, we ought to pray that when the Word is preached, it would be an accurate exposition of all of Scripture. It is far too easy for a pastor to focus on a particular area or topic of interest or to linger in specific books while neglecting others. Pray that preachers in every church—especially yours—would preach the whole counsel of God.
We would be wise to pray for the protection of truth as the Word is preached. The message of the Bible centers on the reconciliation of sinful humanity with our creator, God. Pray that God would guard the preaching at your church, in your denomination, and in the worldwide church and that the central message of the Bible will always be proclaimed boldly.
Regarding biblical preaching, there are three important aspects for which we should pray for those who teach: the preparation, the proclamation, and the response.
Preparation: As preachers prepare sermons, we should pray for their study, discernment, submission to the Holy Spirit, confidence, and boldness. Likewise, we should pray for the listeners’ preparation, that God would soften their hearts and prepare them to hear the truth of Scripture, that their spiritual eyes would be open and their ears unstopped and that the Holy Spirit would ready everyone who will hear the message.
Proclamation: Pray for the boldness and confidence of preachers as they deliver God’s Word; pray that they would have good recall and would be faithful to what God would have them speak. Pray for “unction”—the particular anointing of the Holy Spirit that enables a preacher to effectively deliver the message of God. And pray also for the listeners, that they would be attentive and free from distraction; that they would be well-prepared to hear, learn, and grow; and that the Holy Spirit would work in their hearts and minds.
Response: Pray for preachers’ protection from the Accuser. Satan will try to persuade them that their preaching has no effect or that a particular sermon drove people away from Christ. Pray for the listeners, that they would receive and understand the preached Word and that it would linger in their ears and continually remind them of the truths of God.
When we pray for each of these, it would be fitting that we pray for both our local congregations and other congregations and denominations.
J.E. Eubanks Jr. has written dozens of articles, including others for byFaith; find more of Ed’s writing at www.edeubanks.com. He has also written For All the Saints: Praying for the Church (www.prayforthechurch.net), a book published by Doulos Resources (www.doulosresources.org).