The prayer immediately before a sermon is one where the congregation is prone to drift off. This prayer is usually a minister’s plea for God to grant him words to speak and for God to grant the ability to hear and understand for those who listen to the sermon. I’ve noticed, though, that when I am the one who is to preach immediately afterward, this prayer takes on a new dimension of desperation. The one standing in the pulpit (hopefully) has a real sense of his unworthiness, his unsuitableness, his inability to do in his own power the task he is called to do. This morning I will be preaching at a church nearby and already I feel that sense of inability and already I’m turning to God to grant me strength. This prayer from The Valley of Vision has given me words to speak to God to ask for his help.
When I am discouraged in my ministry and full of doubts of my self,
fasten me upon the rock of thy eternal election,
then my hands will not hang down,
and I shall have hope for myself and others.
Thou dost know thy people by name,
and wilt at the appointed season lead them out of a natural to a gracious state by thy effectual calling.
This is the ground of my salvation,
the object of my desire,
the motive of my ministry.
Keep me from high thoughts of myself or my work,
for I am nothing but sin and weakness;
in me no good dwells,
and my best works are but sin.
Humble me to the dust before thee.
Root and tear out the poisonous weed of self-righteousness,
and show me my utter nothingness;
Keep me sensible of my sinnership;
Sink me deeper into penitence and self-abhorence;
Break the Dagon of pride in pieces before the ark of thy presence;
Demolish the Babel of self-opinion, and scatter it to the wind;
Level to the ground my Jericho walls of a rebel heart;
Then grace, grace, will be my experience and cry.
I am a poor, feeble creature when faith is not in exercise,
like an eagle with pinioned wings;
Grant me to rest on thy power and faithfulness,
and to know that there are two things worth living for:
to further thy cause in the world,
and to do good to the souls and bodies of men;
This is my ministry, my life, my prayer, my end.
Grant me grace that I shall not fail.