Back in the days when I was in the pew for a sermon instead of the pulpit, I remember how those sermons deepened my prayer life. “Dear Lord, make him STOP!” I have my head out of the sand enough to know that as a preacher I too am likely contributing to the prayer lives of some in my congregation. I know that not every sermon brings the house to its feet. Hmm, now that I think about it, none of them have!
Must sermons be talks to endure, or could God use them to whisper in your ear? What makes the difference? Since the Holy Spirit ranges freely, He can use a sermon in many different things to serve the purposes of God. But there are some basic things we can do or think that may greatly improve the benefit of God’s Word to us on Sunday.
- Pray: Pray during the week that the preacher would understand what he’s studying, that he would have the needed time for study, that he would seek to please God and not people, that he would be protected from Satan’s diversions and distortions, that He always end up with Jesus, and that on Sunday there would be a minimum of distractions. Pray for yourself, that you would be open to the Holy Spirit, undistracted by any problems that preoccupy you, and protected from the enemy who does not want you to listen to God.
- Prepare: This includes going to bed early enough Saturday night to be well rested. Do not blame the preacher if you were too tired to “get anything out of it”. If you know the text the preacher will be using, read it ahead of time. Help your children prepare by reading the text together Saturday night.
- God-centered Point of View: No preacher is going to scratch where you itch all the time–or even most of the time. The many other people listening are each struggling with their own unique problems, and are at differing places in their journey with Christ. Since a good preacher listens first to God, then to the various things his people are saying, the sermon’s main point isn’t going to always get an “Aha!” out of you. If you come to a sermon expecting God to address your agenda, you’ll often be disappointed. So come each week, ready to hear something from His agenda for you.
If you just come to watch, the most you might get out of the sermon is a story or joke the preacher tells, or maybe some tidbit torn from its context. Come to the sermon as a participant and not just as a spectator, and you might be greatly surprised at how often God speaks to you before you hear, “You’re dismissed, go with God.”