A prayer I pray often in the preparation, and/or before delivery [sometimes my public prayer at the beginning of my sermon], of sermons is:
“Lord, please take the stones of my words, and transform them by your Spirit into living bread, which will feed the hearts, minds and whole lives of all those who listen to this message. Amen!”
What do I mean and why pray in this way? It stem s from my conviction that God uses real people [like you and me] to communicate real truth through human language, to inform and stimulate human minds, and to move human emotions, and evoke or provoke change. This is most faithfully done when the words spoken are a faithful representation of the gospel, relevantly applied to the context and to the lives of the hearers.
BUT, the transforming effects and power in and for listeners are in the encounter with the Holy Spirit which comes in the moment, and which brings alive the message personally to the hearers. How many times have you heard people say – and/or experienced yourself – “It seemed that you were preaching just to me?”
Now I am NOT making use of the often heard, but exegetically flawed, distinction between ‘logos’ as the human word and ‘rhema’ the divine or living word [they are used almost synonymously in most instances in the New Testament]. But I am saying that it is when the Holy Spirit engages with hearers in personal encounter that the words heard, the emotions stirred, the memories evoked, the failures painfully faced, the aspirations, dreams and hopes raised, become a living message within the very heart and soul of a person.
Then my words [stones] have become the living word [living bread], and bring life and hope, power and transformation into the whole life of the hearer who really hears.
BTW: Acknowledging this reality is a great antidote to and defence against pride in a preacher. The reality is that any real transforming effect of my preaching is the work of the Holy Spirit, NOT my exegesis, application, illustrations or oratory [all of which are necessary elements of faithful, biblical, relevant preaching]. Indeed, sometimes I feel very humbled, almost ashamed, that the Lord has used my inadequate preparation [yes, sadly], my lengthy rambling, and/or my lack of simple clarity, to effect such response in some hearers. To God Alone Be the Glory! Amen.