Four Suggestions for the Pre-Sermon Prayer

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29, NASB)

Brethren, I am most appreciative for every brother who has stood up to lead a prayer before every sermon I have given, as I am sure you are for those who have done so for the studies and lessons you have presented and for those who have done likewise for other men of God. Nevertheless, I have noticed a trend, not only when I preach but when hearing other men speak before congregations, in which that pre-sermon prayer may cause more harm than good when it is not focused in its purpose. Therefore, the following are four suggestions for the consideration of those men who give the public prayer just prior to the sermon.

1. DO express thanks to God for the willingness of the speaker to preach the gospel. What a joy it is to hear God's word proclaimed in a humble spirit! Suppose for a moment that you are leading a prayer in which you desire to say this; here is one way to say this: "Lord, thank you for our brother's desire to preach your word. It is an honor to hear your word spoken, your authority as God respected, and your wonderful works of love in Christ accepted."

2. DO NOT call into question the speaker's talent, presentation style, appearance, age, or motivation for speaking. Notice that none of these specifically have to do with whether the preacher is preaching false doctrine or sound doctrine; the test for that is to discern what the speaker actually says from the lectern; a novice speaker of God's word is still presenting God's word: any problem with regards to any of these other matters listed may be dealt with privately with a word of exhortation or suggestion to the preacher.

3. DO focus the attention of the audience on the message that will be preached. For instance, you could say, "Lord, help us to listen intently to recognize the topic of the hour, to think on how it might apply in our lives, humbly admitting that there is room for each of us to grow. Let us ask you for help to apply this wisdom from your word."

4. DO NOT give a back-handed compliment to the speaker. It is encouraging to hear that the speaker is breaking open the bread of life; it is discouraging to hear a prayer that it spoken less than enthusiastically. Your prayer, as the sermon itself, is something that may build up the brethren and give them grace. Privately settle with the speaker any matters that would cause you to doubt prior to leading the prayer.

Please remember that these suggestions may help you prepare the minds and hearts of the brethren to hear the word of God presented.

By Sam Stinson

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