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Prayer (Not Optional)


Many people who have read my book God is in the House have commented on the emphasis I place on prayer. Having read lots of books on preaching, which when mentioning prayer tend to leave it till the end as something of an afterthought. I wanted to put prayer up front and central to the task of preaching because I have come realise that I cannot speak about God unless I am speaking to God. The preacher’s life like the Christian life in general gains its focus, motivation, and energy from a relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This relationship is sustained daily by listening to God’s word and speaking to him in prayer.


My own approach to praying has been shaped by observing the Apostle Paul’s pattern in his letters, which seem to arise out of his prayer life as he daily engages in thanksgiving and intercession. His two substantial prayers in the letter to the Ephesians are my favourite role models for the preacher’s prayers. The prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21 act like two bearing walls that carry the weight of Paul’s longings concerning the teaching contained in the letter. Prayer keeps the preacher in touch with the God who speaks; it connects us to his heart, aligns us with his agenda and reinforces the preacher’s expectation that God will be at work in the sermon.


I was reminded of this when reading Malcolm Macdonald’s recently published book Saturated with God: A cry for a nation-changing revival.


Macdonald says to preachers:


“We are so keen to try anything and everything, except the ancient path of tears. We have ideas, creativity, blue-sky thinking, initiatives, fresh expressions…The list is endless and the outcomes negligible.”


Preachers are indeed willing to try anything new, but sometimes this is at the cost of ignoring what is timeless. I like the phrase the “ancient path of tears.” It reminds me that prayer both touches the heart of God and our hearts also. Praying is a more that saying our prayers; it is calling upon God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is about seeing God’s intentions, encountering God’s power, and experiencing a relationship with him that transforms us.


One of the things that the prayers of Paul in Ephesians always do for me is lift my eyes beyond my limited horizons to the breath-taking vastness of the dimensions of God’s love and the astonishing possibilities of his power. I have lost count of the times that I have used the words with which Paul concludes his prayer in Ephesians 3:20-21.


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”


Preachers need to be reminded that God can do more that they can achieve with their ingenuity or their most extravagant dreams. The humble praying preacher kneels before God; the preacher becomes less so that God can show more.






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Thanks for conveying your wealth of knowledge to us in Busselton this weekend, John. I notice that you continue to pray as per this post and it impresses me very much. I hope to be able to pray like this one day. God bless. Jayson.

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