I’ve often heard it said that Spurgeon ascended to preach repeating the words, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, I believe in the Holy Ghost, I believe in the Holy Ghost.” It was his prayer for power and an expression of dependance on God for the task of preaching. Andy Davis, one of my favorite expositors today, has said that he repeats Jesus’ words in John 21 “Feed my sheep, feed my sheep, feed my sheep.”1
These habits are good, because they redirect the preacher to the source of his power and the purpose of his preaching. While I don’t repeat the same phrase while ascending the small steps to the platform at Hermon Baptist Church, I have found myself repeating the same prayer before each sermon: exalt your name, edify your church, evangelize the sinner. This prayer captures what I aim to accomplish in every sermon.
- Exalt your name
Preaching is not merely the communication of information. Preaching is the exaltation God’s glory in Jesus Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture. I long for my people to behold this glory and adore the person in whom it is revealed (John 1:14). In the New Testament we learn that Jesus Christ has inherited the name that is above all names (Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:4). Since I am convinced this is the divine name, praying for the exaltation of God’s name is to pray for the exaltation of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.
- Edify your church
When the saints gather on the Lord’s day, the Spirit works through the preaching of the Word of God to renew the saints into the image of God. To hear the Word preached is to really hear the living God address his people for the purpose of maturity and sanctification. This prayer is inspired by 1 Timothy 4:15-16 and Colossians 1:28-29.
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Ti 4:15–16)
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Col 1:28–29)
- Evangelize the sinner
When Paul praises God for the saints in Thessalonica he notes their reception of his gospel preaching.
13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Th 2:13)
For any and all present who don’t know the Lord, I pray that God would evangelize the sinner. First, this is a prayer for gospel clarity. I want every sermon to be the proclamation of God’s work in the gospel and a call to repentance and faith. Second it is a prayer for the unbeliever to receive the Word for what it really is—the Word of God.
Since these are my aims and I am insufficient to execute them by my own power, I will continue to pray: exalt your name, edify your church, evangelize the sinner.