Meditating on the Word: Prepare To Be Preached To

To guide God’s saints in readying themselves for the reception of His preached Word each Lord’s Day, this earthen vessel shares his own weekly preparation to proclaim it to them as a model to modify and use.

Prepare through Prayer

With an intense sense of the responsibility of the task and a desire neither to fail the Lord nor His people, I first get on my knees and face and beg of the Lord Psalm 119:18: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.  One pastor-author contends that it would be better neither to preach nor to read the Bible if one does not first bathe in preparatory prayer.

During an evangelical encounter I once counseled a troubled young man espousing terrible theology, and lamenting a tumultuous life due to his not seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, to stop exalting his own “enlighted” interpretations of the Bible and simply ask God to show Him what He was saying.  He admitted he had never done so, and it showed.  Pastors should open their sermon prep humbly mindful that 2 Peter 1:20-21 teaches there is one Author and Interpreter, and God’s people should do the same as they prepare to listen to his sermons—both asking the Holy Spirit for enlightenment into His intention.[1]

While the minister steps up to the pulpit let the people bow down and pray Psalm 36:9: ... in thy light shall we see light.

Prime the Pump

Before I get off my knees I also ask of the Lord, “Please show me your point in this text and what you want me to say about it to your people.”  When I rise, I do not walk away from my study.  I next sit down at my desk trusting His promise to reward them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)[2] and desiring to study to show myself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) so others learn to trust me before I dare to declare how they should think and live. 

I begin with translating the original Hebrew or Greek.  Still a toddler with these languages, I rely heavily on software assistance, but this just makes for a more grueling and time consuming process; yet I never skip it, heeding one Puritan’s counsel: “Let your sermons be always the fruit of much study and application.  And never dare to serve God or His people with that which cost you nothing.”[3]  This advice should animate the saints’ weekly drawing near to God in Lord’s Day worship.[4]  Just as I also seek wisdom in many commentators to write my sermons, so one of our young men often consults Matthew Henry’s commentary on their texts each Sabbath eve to prime the pumping of his heart to hear them.  

Present Yourself to be Present in Christ’s Presence

After this kind of prayer and preparation I come to the place where I anticipate God’s special, personal presence and I expect His people to be eagerly present with ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us.  

There should be a reverent, rapt expectation for Christ to speak within the waiting congregation that is as palpable in the air as when Moses approached the burning bush from which the thrice-Holy covenant God addressed him directly.  May it be that our churches have that kind of preparatory atmosphere rather than what Rev. Alistair Begg experienced as a young preacher that caused him to hide in the bathroom before the service started so as to be free of distracting conversations and get ready to speak for and lead the worship of God.[5]

With all this in view, I offer assistance from Matthew Henry’s, “A Family Prayer for the Lord’s Day Morning”:

On this sacred day ... Go with us to the solemn assembly of your people.  For if your presence does not go up with us, what good will it do for us to go up without you?  Give us grace to draw near to you with a singleness of heart ... Show your saving grace through ... the preaching of your word ...  Let your word come with life and power to our souls.  Make it like the good seed sown in good soil ... Let our every thought be brought into obedience to him.[6]

May such supplications be found on our hearts in our closets, at our tables, and in our pews so that the Seed would be sown not in fallow but fertile fields.[7]

Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Evangelical Church of America in San Diego, CA, since 2010.  A widower, he is the adoring father of his four covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, and Isaac.  He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.



[1] Further, we must humbly approach the preaching for what it is, Christ’s own proclaiming of Himself and His will.  Consult 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and see the author’s sermon, “Receive the Ministry of the Word as the Word of God” as well as his earlier post on this website, “What Do you Do with Your Pastor’s Preaching?”  See also Tim Bertolet’s recent Place for Truth post, “Biblical Authority: Preaching the Word”.

[2] This benefit goes far beyond preparing to preach or hear the sermon itself but often “connects dots” from other studies and interests while continuing to build up a mature understanding and love of the Word that contributes to the task at hand as being not only worthy but gratifying.  For instance, it was exciting for this author while mining various sources for a lecture series on The Revelation to discover in Dr. Gregory Beale’s commentary another nuanced nugget to prove filioque in the Scriptures: “If the waters symbolize the Spirit, as in the similar portrayal in John 7:37-39, then Rev. 22:1 is an early picture of the later Christian confession that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.”  G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 1104.  This insight also was helpful to include in the author’s membership class based on the Westminster Confession of Faith.

[3] James Meikle, “Counsel to Pastors”, a tract produced by Chapel Library: see www.chapellibrary.org.

[5] Alistair Begg, “Holy Day or Holiday?, Part Two” (Cleveland, OH: Truth for Life, October 31, 1993), an audio sermon found here: https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/holy-day-or-holiday-pt2/

[6] Matthew Henry, A Way to Pray, ed. O. Palmer Robertson (Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2010) , 333-334.

 


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