How to prepare a sermon – part 1



I thought I’d put together a little series of blog posts detailing my sermon preparation strategy for anyone who is interested. When I first started preaching I read some very helpful books on the role and function of preaching itself, but didn’t come across much in the way of a practical guide – a ‘how to’ of preparing a sermon. So in this series, I shall tell you how I go about preparing a sermon.

The method I shall outline works for me, and it might help you too, but there is more than one way to skin a cat as they say. My method was greatly helped by taking the Cornhill Training Course run by Proclamation Trust. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who wants to learn to read and teach the Bible better.

Step 1: Pray

It may seem like an obvious point to begin with but in my experience it is the most crucial and most easily neglected. At the beginning of my preaching career I was full of trepidation during the preparation and delivery of a sermon and so prayer came naturally – I was desperate! As I became more capable in my preaching and my method more streamlined, I found it all too easy to rely on my own ability and skill, rather than maintain that deep sense of dependency on God’s help that I had at the start. Add to the mix the weekly task of message preparation and the sense of routine that a preacher will fall in to, and before long earnest, heartfelt prayer as part of message prep gets kicked into touch.

So what should you pray for?

In no particular order here is what I pray for before reading a single Bible verse:

  • That God the Holy Spirit who wrote the Bible will illuminate my mind to understand what he wrote;
  • That I would not only understand the biblical text but that I would be mastered by it – applying what I learn to my own life before instructing others;
  • That the congregation would be ministered to through the preaching of this message – and I pray for specific individuals or circumstances that the text is likely to address;
  • That God would be pleased to use the preached word in this sermon to grow his church and glorify his Son.

Prayer shouldn’t end there. A sermon should be prepared prayerfully – the preacher being attentive to what the Holy Spirit is revealing through the Bible as the prep proceeds. In my experience I feel compelled at times to praise God for what he has declared in the passage I am working on; at other times I am burdened to pray for particular members of the congregation or situations in the world.

Unlike all the other steps to sermon preparation that will follow, prayer is indispensable to effective, faithful, God-glorifying preaching. The most significant thing you can do (and perhaps do more) to become a better preacher is to pray. Without prayer, our sermons will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts.