Free Book: Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ

It’s free book time again!

July’s free book is Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ by Thomas R. Schreiner.  [Read more…]

Sermon Preparation Is Twenty Hours of Prayer

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

By Matthew Kim, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

It’s something that we all know in our minds. We’ve considered it. But it’s often difficult to put into practice. What am I talking about? 

Pastor R. Kent Hughes, who pastored College Church in Wheaton, IL, for some twenty-seven years, once had this to say about preaching: “Sermon preparation is twenty hours of prayer.” 

Twenty hours? What does he mean? How can we pray for twenty hours when we have so many things to do in ministry?

What Hughes means is that prayer is extremely valuable in sermon preparation. Prayer is indispensable. We need to pray, because we’re engaged in a spiritual battle. The moment we walk up into the pulpit we recognize that what we are doing is not something that just any communicator does. We’re preaching God’s Word. And the enemy doesn’t want us to. The enemy doesn’t want us to have power. He doesn’t want us to display God’s power through our sermon.

What we’re doing is bathing our sermon in prayer. How do we do that?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Logos-FBOTM-June19_FLAN-2_640x186-1-620x180.png

It begins when we select a text. I know that there are moments in pastoral ministry where I just thought, What does the church need to hear? And so I would just simply go to a text or look for a text. But to have this attitude of sermon preparation being twenty hours of prayer means that from the moment I think about a given sermon, I’m given to prayer. I’m seeking God’s guidance. I ask, “God, what do you want me to learn from this particular passage? Which passage should I preach on?” 

As we’re going through the rigors of exegesis and determining what the author is talking about, I’m constantly prayerful. What does it mean to pray in such a way that we’re asking the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand the authorial intent of the passage? What does this mean for the people back in Bible times, and what does it mean for us today? Even in outlining or writing our manuscript, we’re constantly soaking our sermon in prayer. We’re praying through what it means to speak to people in such a way that God’s Word comes alive in their midst.

One of the ways we can do this practically speaking is praying through the church directory. Pray about your congregation’s needs and struggles. What is that family going through at this moment? What does it look like for this person who has lost her job to understand this particular passage? And as we do so, we slow down our preparation. We don’t just rush through it to get the sermon finished. We don’t just go through the exercise of exegesis. But we are prayerful about each moment of the sermon preparation process.

A few years ago I was standing on the curb. I remember it vividly. I was a candidate for a pastoral position at a church. One of the pastors on the church staff looked at me. But he didn’t just look at me. He gave me one of those up-and-down glances which made me feel uncomfortable. He inquired, “Matt, so how many hours do you pray each day?” I thought to myself, Hours? I think in minutes. But what he was really getting at is, “Do you have a deep and profound relationship with the Lord?” D. L. Moody was known to say, “He who kneels the most, stands the best.” That’s what R. Kent Hughes may have in view when he wisely encourages: Sermon preparation is twenty hours of prayer.

This post is adapted from “Sermon preparation is twenty hours of prayer,” by Matthew Kim in Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry, edited by Scott M. Gibson (Lexham Press, 2016).

Announcing a New Website—and 30% off Your First Order

For a limited time, take 30% off your first order when you visit our new site.

That’s not one product, that’s one order, so fill up your cart to maximize your savings. [Read more…]

The Breath That Moves through Everything: A Survey of ‘Ruach’

By Myk Habets, adapted from The Progressive Mystery

The Old Testament consistently teaches the distinct, creative agency of the Spirit of God over the cosmos and all that is in it, including humankind. Not only does the Spirit of God create all things but he also sustains them (Gen 6:3). [Read more…]

Free Course + 2 More for 80% Off

“Clarity of Scripture” means the Bible is not a puzzle to unscramble but is clear enough for people to understand, believe, and follow. [Read more…]

Parables Aren’t as Easy as You Think—How Jesus’ Most-Used Teaching Method Works (Video)

“The kingdom of heaven is like…” With these words, Jesus begins a parable, arguably his most-used teaching method. 

If we don’t know how parables work, we get much of Jesus’ teaching flat wrong.  [Read more…]

Kill Your Academized Christianity before It Kills Your Students . . . and Their Ministries

When students ask for recommended books before entering seminary I usually have Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling at the top of my list. Tripp points out many of the common heart problems related to pastoral ministry. But this book isn’t just for students. I think every seminary professor should read it too. Tripp writes out of both professorial and pastoral experience.

Strive to be a professor who is concerned about heart application as much as theological information.

[Read more…]

Two Scrolls? The Perplexing History of Jeremiah’s Composition.

By Walter C. Kaiser Jr., with Tiberius Rata, adapted from Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah.

Editor’s note: the textual issues surrounding Jeremiah are among the most difficult in all the Hebrew Bible. For a deeper look at its background and composition, read this Lexham Bible Dictionary entry. [Read more…]

Free John Frame Course Available Now—Plus Excerpt from Theology of Genesis

This month’s free book isn’t a book—it’s a course by the esteemed professor John Frame.

And along with that generous offer, two other courses are over 80% off: [Read more…]

Preach Better Sermons by Studying Great Preachers—Sermon Archives 30% Off

Prepare your sermons with help from masters of preaching. For a limited time, nearly all our sermon archives are 30% off.
[Read more…]