The longer I serve as a pastor, the more I realize that no good thing ever happens apart from God’s direct intervention. No person has the power to change a human heart. No one can explain Scripture well enough to convince another person to believe it. No one can hold a diverse group of people together in harmony. Such blessings will be had only if God himself gives them.
We are fully dependent on God’s good pleasure. We can orchestrate no blessing on our own. This does not mean, however, that blessings cannot be had. On the contrary, Jesus teaches us: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). This verse can only mean that God will give blessings when his people are faithful to ask him.
I’m personally never more aware of this need to ask him than when I prepare sermons and preach his Word. Every week I cry out to God asking him to bless his Word as I proclaim it. I pray for insight into his truth, into his people, into what to say and how to say it. I ask him to make his power known in my weakness. Every week, God is gracious far beyond anything I deserve. I shudder to think what would happen if I didn’t ask him to bless.
As significant as the pastor’s responsibility is in the proclamation of the truth, it is not only the pastor who has responsibility in this work. The church is responsible to prepare for worship, gather together, be attentive and receive the truth. The church also has a significant responsibility to ask for God’s blessing on the preacher and his preaching.
Corporate responsibility for the quality of preaching is one reason the apostle Paul asked often for prayer from the churches. He requested prayer for success in his proclamation of truth. His requests for prayer were not directed merely to other apostles, or to elders or deacons. They were directed to entire congregations.
Paul asks the Ephesian church to “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). To the Thessalonians he says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
Every believer has a responsibility regarding the proclamation of the truth and the spread of the gospel. It is a responsibility that cannot be met without prayer. When the Word of God abounds and increases in the hearts of people, it is not because one man has prayed, but because many have done so.
“Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).