Preachers, I hope you labor in the preparation of your sermons. But I fear that we put too much trust in the mechanics of "sermon prep," believing excellent commentaries, classic writings, a good homiletic outline, and a strong conviction are all that's needed to prepare to preach the word. But this is not enough. It's not even close, because it misses out on what may be the most critical component of sermon study. In his classic work, The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges offers the following:

“Wickliff’s judgment of the main qualification of an expositor of Scripture is... striking and accurate. He should be a man of prayer—he needs the internal instruction of the primary Teacher. Dr. Owen observes with his usual impressiveness—‘For a man solemnly to undertake the interpretation of any portion of Scripture without invocation of God, to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one, who thus proudly engages in a work so much above his ability. But this is the sheet anchor of a faithful expositor in all difficulties; nor can he without this be satisfied, that he hath attained the mind of the Spirit in any Divine revelation. When all other helps fail, as they frequently do, this will afford him the best relief. The labours of former expositors are of excellent use: but they are far from having discovered the depth of this vein of wisdom; nor will the best of our endeavours prescribe limits to our successors; and the reason why the generality go in the same track, except in some excursions of curiosity, is— not giving themselves up to the conduct of the Holy Spirit in the diligent performance of their duty.’”
The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges

After preaching for nearly twenty years, I can assure you I have learned this the hard way. It is easy to rely on a great tool, like Logos Bible Software, without relying on God for our clarity, conviction, and confidence in preaching. We need tools to help us, but we need the Holy Spirit to illumine, convict, and empower. And much of the Spirit's work in us will be done in conjunction with prayer. I guess I shouldn't say I have learned this. I am still learning it.

So preachers, before we preach, let's seek the Lord's help in prayer, praying over the text, for our own minds and hearts, for the good of those who will hear, and for the glory of Jesus Christ. 

Originally posted at JoeThorn.net