At the end of every radio broadcast, the inimitable J. Harold Smith would quickly pray, “Father, take this message and use it for Thy glory. Amen.”
I’m not sure what he prayed at the start of his sermons.
Sitting on the front pew throughout the first half of a worship service, what I pray goes something like this: “My Lord. Thank you for this privilege. Please anoint my lips and speak Thy word. Give me good recall for this message. Set a guard upon my mouth and keep watch over the door of my lips. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. And Father, use me to draw people to Jesus. For Thy sake. Amen.”
I may pray all or a part of that, but that’s my constant prayer.
A friend says he heard that in the moments before Charles Haddon Spurgeon rose to preach, he could be heard whispering repeatedly, “I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
A good pastor friend says his pre-sermon prayer is more like, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
I discovered as a beginning preacher that if I got to the pulpit thinking of myself and this message, I would freeze up and nothing would go well. But when I moved the focus to the Lord and the people sitting in front of me (“I have His message for them”), I relaxed inwardly and was able to do my best.
Here is a bigger question: What do you pray for your pastor before the sermon?
–Remember, there are seven days in a week, so there’s plenty of time for you to pray “before” his sermon. That is, we should pray for him as he is choosing his subject, studying the word, searching for that illustration, and perfecting the message in his heart. Then, on Sunday morning, a simple “God bless him” should suffice.
–We should pray for ourselves, that we will receive this message as from the Lord. Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever receives you, receives me,” and “Whoever listens to you is listening to me” (Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16).
–Having prayed for the pastor’s message all week and again on Sunday morning, we should guard against criticizing it unless there are glaring reasons to do so. (Imagine the family around the dinner table praying God would bless the food, then all of them criticizing what was set before them. Our criticism of the preaching is often just as irrational.)
What would be reasons for criticizing a sermon? That’s another subject altogether and not one we can do justice to here, but in brief, a sermon that insults, betrays, or transgresses would qualify for a discussion by church leadership.
Pray for your pastor. So much depends on it.