“May He support us all the day long, ‘til the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at last.”
John Henry Newman
The following is not an uncommon occurrence for me while preparing to preach…
Not always, but there are certainly times of struggle either to make sense of the text and/or to make sure I really believe it. As the Puritans liked to say, make sure to preach to yourself before you preach to others. Really believing the Word of God is more difficult than determining its proper meaning.
Then God brings light, many times much light, and I can’t write fast enough.
It is one reason I don’t like to preach every week. The process of preparation is best if I have months to mull and consider a text. I want to stew on it for a long time.
I take many notes and ask many questions. Commentaries come at the end to make sure I am in the ballpark of sound exegesis.
All this is one reason why I wish lead pastors preached less frequently. It would be better for them and for the congregation.
I am currently reading through all my sermons.
One from 1993 was on The Lord’s Prayer. An early church document for worship (Didache) said we ought to pray The Lords Prayer three times a day. I also had a note that the Lord’s Prayer has become rote for many people when ironically the purpose of the Lord’s Prayer was to protect us from simply going through the motions! See Matt 6:7,8.
An excerpt from my forthcoming book, God, What on Earth are You Doing? an Honest Conversation:
I often say that we Americans know how to cry, but not lament. Crying can simply be sadness over circumstances we do not like. Lament is a deeper cry of the soul that brings one’s sorrow to God and wrestles with it there. One wise pastor says, “In this fallen world, sadness is an act of sanity, our tears the testimony of the sane.” Those in this category have internalized the great themes of the Bible, not in the stereotypical Sunday school sort of way, but in a way that has produced lasting fruit over the course of many years.
 Zack Eswine, Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those who Suffer from Depression (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2014), 30.
I’ve known about this place for many years. Now, all of us can “go” there!
As Christians, we love hearing testimonies of God’s faithfulness. It encourages us when our own faith is failing. We are reminded that God still works in peoples’ lives. All this is good.
The tricky thing is the hearer must be careful to not become like Simon Magus. You may recall how he wanted to do miracles just like Peter and John. Simon erroneously thought he could pay for something like this. We are not as crass, but we hear how God answered someone’s prayer and we look for the secret which made it all come about. Let’s say the person communicates that God convicted her to fast one day a week. Ah, that is the trick. If I fast one day a week, I can also count on God answering some of my most cherished prayers.
It is often missed, but should be underscored: Paul needed the prayers of others (II Cor. 1:8-11). He was “despairing even of life.” At another low moment, he greatly benefited from the encouragement of Titus (II Cor. 7:6).
I have often shared the following to Christians who are so deeply troubled they can’t even muster the motivation to pray: Don’t worry. Simply ask others to pray for you. Give us the privilege of holding you up. You may need to return the favor someday!