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george wieland: how does a preacher pray

There are times in the course of preparing a sermon or shortly before preaching when I find it hard gather my thoughts to pray. Ideas are buzzing, anxieties are clamoring for attention and my head’s like a Kolkata roundabout.

At such times I’m grateful that Jesus’ first set of inadequate servants asked him to teach them to pray. The pattern Jesus gave them becomes for me a set of tram lines along which my shambolic mind and heart can run, albeit in fits and starts, and move towards trust and obedience.

I might pray like this:

Our Father in heaven . . .

This is a family matter! Here I am, so anxious about finding the right message for these people, but You are their Father, and mine. You love them and You will speak to them, and to me as well.

May our relationship with You grow as we look to You and listen together for what You want to say to us. In what I say may Your children hear Your voice and know that they are loved by You.

You’re “in heaven”. Yes, You’re right here where I am now, and You will be there when we gather, but You are not only here. You are transcendent, filling all things with Your glory, but as I pray and as we meet, You see, You hear, You speak, and heaven touches earth. As Your Word is opened to us bathe us and our worlds in the light of heaven.

Hallowed be Your Name . . .

Yours. I lay aside the clinging concern for my name, what people think of me as a preacher, a teacher, a person. I pray that You will be held in the highest reverence and that through the content and the manner of my speaking and behaving You will be honoured.

Give us a deeper perception of Your utter holiness. Cleanse me for Your service.

Your kingdom come . . .

Lift my eyes to the horizon of Your purpose for Your world. I long for a world under the rule of Jesus Christ, for wholeness and justice. As Jesus and the apostles proclaimed the kingdom, with its thrilling immediacy and its radical demand, give me the integrity of a life lived under Your rule, the insight to discern the contours of Your kingdom in the context in which I speak, and the courage to call for decision and action. Whether welcomed or resisted, may it be known that the kingdom has drawn near.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .

May Your rule be realised in the particular as well as the universal, including in this message that I have the responsibility to bring to this group of people. You are at work in them, individually and corporately; direct me so that what I do and say will be part of what You are doing in and through them.

Do Your work also in me. Liberate my mind from conformity to the attitudes and ways of thinking of the present age; renew my mind so that through Your transforming work I might see more fully what is Your good, acceptable and perfect will in relation to our lives as a community of believers and in the wider society.

Give us this day our daily bread . . .

Father I am utterly dependent on You. You are the God who nourishes Your people, so give to them what You know they need. I offer myself to be a disciple who, with inadequate understanding and imperfect attitudes, receives the bread from Your hands and shares it with others so that it becomes Your miraculous gift of provision.

And though I am preoccupied with the task of speaking, open my eyes and my heart and my hands also to those whose needs today are material, for whom words alone would be a mockery.

And forgive us our sins . . .

Including those sins that are related most directly to this task of preparing and preaching: pride that is more concerned about what they will think of me than of what they will think of You; fear that wants to filter out truth that might be awkward for some to hear and create uncomfortable relational strains; hypocrisy that evades the challenge of Your word to me and my life by channeling it into a message only for them; laziness that baulks at the hard work that would be needed to understand more adequately and communicate more effectively.

Forgive me and restore me, and through the ministry that You graciously give me to perform, may others also seek and receive Your forgiveness.

As we forgive those who sin against us . . .

Open my heart to let go of hurts harboured waiting for the chance to hit back, of resentments that keep simmering in the background, of attitudes that keep relationships stalled. Flood my heart with Your love and calibrate my mind according to the generosity of Your forgiveness to me. Let no trace of an unforgiving spirit taint my reading and preparing and speaking and relating.

And within the group of people who gather to listen together to You, work miracles of release and reconciliation.

And lead us not into temptation . . .

You who were tempted as we are, but did not fall, keep me from falling to the temptation to say what I think will gain approval from people I want to please or fear to displease, or to entertain rather than nourish, or to collude in a compromised discipleship rather than face for myself and challenge others with Your deep demands. Protect me from distracting thoughts and anxieties. Guard my life so that what I say may not be contradicted by the louder message of what I do.

But deliver us from evil . . .

Defeat the Evil One who opposes Your kingdom and tries to disrupt Your transforming, saving work. Guard the seed of the gospel from being snatched away as it is scattered, protect it as it grows from being choked by rival growths or withered by hostile pressure. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, so clothe me in the whole armour of God and may my speaking and our listening be a part of Your victory in our lives and in Your world.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours, for ever and ever.

Thank You that in the Lord our labour is not in vain.



  1. Paul Windsor says:

    I seem to remember that your first post also stunned everyone into silence, George (I think it was about preaching without notes and not many of us probably wanted to take up the challenge it contained)…

    … so I thought I’d break the silence 🙂 There is such a valuable spirituality-for-the-preacher expressed here. Thanks

  2. Myk Habets says:

    Lovely – really nice George – this is a keeper and will come out in some classes of mine for many years to come I think. Thank you!

  3. What a powerful post, George. Something to read through weekly. Thank you!

  4. Wow – thanks heaps George! Yet another wonderful way to use the Lord’s Prayer!

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