Preaching does not work without prayer. In fact, God never intended for us to separate prayer from preaching. Paul often asked for prayer from the churches in order that his preaching might be bold and effective (Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3–4). The apostles devoted themselves to "prayer and to the preaching ministry" (Acts 6:4). Jesus said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing," (Jn. 15:5) in the context of preparing his disciples to go out and preach (Jn. 15–17).

Preaching demands prayer. So why is prayer so vital to our preaching?

1. Mere information is too limited

If preaching were merely dispensing information about God or the Bible, it would not require that much prayer. We have so many books, commentaries, websites, and journals at our disposal that we are without excuse when it comes to sermon content. Make no mistake about it, you can preach a decent sermon, even a good one, without immersing yourself in God’s presence. Many of you are natural communicators and hard workers. To present something of value each week is not that difficult. No one listening would dare think that you barely spent time in communion with God throughout the week.

But while preaching is certainly not less than dispensing information, it is immeasurably more. Sermons are not meant merely to inform, but to transform. Great sermon content alone cannot do this. We need God to light our content on fire! "Preaching," said Calvin Miller, "in one sense, merely discharges the firearm that God has loaded in the silent place" (Spirit, Word, and Story, 26). This is where we must go, to the silent place, and there confess our utter uselessness without God. Otherwise our content, despite its insight, will have no impact.

2. The work is too difficult

The hope of our preaching is for God to do what we cannot. We cannot heal marriages or overcome addictions or bring about faith and repentance. We cannot make spiritually dead people live. Charles Spurgeon said, "Yet what a baseless pride to conceive that our preaching can ever be in itself so powerful that it can turn men from their sins and bring them to God without the working of the Holy Ghost" (Lectures To My Students, 48).

The difficulty of the work alone should drive us to prayer. Aside from the constant preparation amid other demands of ministry, each week we look out to a congregation with countless sins, struggles, trials, and questions. On a given Sunday, broken marriages, rebellious teens, dysfunctional relationships, addictions, depression, joblessness, loneliness, and despair all stare me (and you) in the face. To think I can bring healing and reconciliation in my own power is downright comical. Yet if we are honest, many of us really think our homiletical savviness is enough to pull this off.

But God intends the difficulty of the work to drive us to our knees where we confess, "Who is competent for this?" (2 Cor. 2:16). Paul Miller wrote, "A praying life isn’t simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our own poverty of spirit, realizing that we can't even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the help of the Spirit of Jesus" (A Praying Life, 36).

3. We are too sinful

God will often expose our sins through our preaching. He will show us that we lean on preaching for our worth and identity. If the sermon goes well and our church is growing, we tend toward pride and arrogance, no matter how humbly we present ourselves. If our sermons seem to fall on deaf ears and attendance drops, we collapse under despair and hopelessness. Our own preaching becomes a window into our heart. We find that we are preaching to justify ourselves before God and people.

Prayer forces us to face these realities. Only communion with God can dislodge this from our heart. We come before Him with empty hands longing to be satisfied, assured, and filled. There we bathe our souls in the finished work of Christ on our behalf and remember that He alone justifies us, not what we do for Him.

Preaching in our own power is futile, therefore we pray. We pray as we exegete the text. We pray as we write the outline and manuscript. We pray before we preach. We pray as we preach. We pray after we preach. The unceasing theme of our preaching should be, "I can do nothing without him!" Brothers, let us fight for our prayer lives. We will of course fail miserably at times, but God is patient with us. He is our Father and He delights to speak through our prayerful preaching.

Greg Breazeale is pastor of Metro East Baptist Church, Wichita, Kansas.