“A sermon is not finished until it is lived in the world by God’s people” (Dr. C. Mack Roark, 1991).
“We must confess, many of us by hearing sermons, are grown sermon-proof; we know how to scoff and mock at sermons, but we know not how to live sermons” (Edmund Calamy, 1662).
Year in and year out I hear prayers on Sunday morning asking God to speak through the preacher as we listen to the sermon. In Sunday School and Worship Services these prayers, offered on behalf of those assembled, go something like this. “God, speak to us as our pastor brings the message to us this morning.” I can’t help but wonder if this is a prayer of faith or a prayer of ritual?
If it is the prayer of faith, then surely God will answer our prayer and speak to us through His messenger in the pulpit. If it mere ritual, then we’ve flipped the autopilot prayer mode switch in order to speak the appropriate words.
The prayer of faith will lead us to listen carefully for the voice of God speaking through the exposing of Scriptural truth and the cutting edge of Biblical application in our lives and times. How could a prayer of faith do any less? The prayer of faith will cause us to see ourselves through the lens of Biblical proclamation bringing us to the place of confession, repentance, and a joyful recommitment of living everyday for our Lord and Savior.
The prayer of ritual leads us to murmur a hollow, “Amen,” then sit back expecting to be entertained, or to have our emotions stirred, or to have our ideas affirmed on how much better we are than those who are not like us. If the sermon meets our standards then we judge it to be a ‘good’ sermon. This is the natural response to a prayer of ritual.
Yet God is God. I can’t help but believe that God often answers not only the prayer of faith but also the prayer of ritual. Through God’s grace and mercy, He gives us what we ask even when we don’t act upon our ritualistic request. He speaks through His messenger and yet we never genuinely listen for the voice of God and in so doing, we never hear the voice of God. The evidence that we haven’t heard God is that we do not live the message God gives us. We listen only for the voice of man and ignore the message from God.
So as we pray for our pastors and their preparation for the sermons we will hear this Sunday, ought we not with greater fervency commit ourselves to listen for God’s message? Shouldn’t we make the determination now that we will live the sermon Monday – Saturday we hear on Sunday? If we are living by faith not by ritual, we must give thanks today that God will speak to us through His servant on the Lord’s Day. Then, by His grace, we have the privilege of living the sermon the rest of the week.o
It is by grace through faith we have salvation. It is by grace through faith we will hear the voice of God through His messenger Sunday. It is by grace through faith that we will live God’s message day in and day out.
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