Romans 9:1-3 – I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— [2] that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  [3] For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Romans 10:1 – Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

Prayer is a statement of dependence and prayerlessness is an even louder statement of independence. There is no one as utterly dependent upon a work of God in his calling than the preacher, and wise is the preacher who grows in his understanding of that simple fact. Those of us who have given ourselves to it will be judged with a harsher judgement and that fact alone should garner more prayer than the average saint will muster. Heart preaching begins on the knees. This is such a well worn truth that we should hardly need mentioning it, but like the corner stone on most of our church buildings claiming that this structure is here for the glory of God, it is a valuable truth that is soon never noticed once the dedication service has taken place. If we are ever going to preach sermons that reach the hearts of our hearers it will be because we have agonized in prayer seeking guidance and help from our God, imploring Him to do in the hearts of our hearers what we cannot. Those who are young, as well as those who listen to them, may be tempted to think that the tools they received in their training is all they need for the work. Mastery of the languages, hermeneutical prowess, homiletical genius and systematics expertise can become great deceivers of those who come out of seminary armed with them. They will not replace the need for concentrated, heartfelt, pastoral prayer for the blessing of God upon their preaching and for fruit that matters to come of it. And how many of us who have been at this for a scary number of years fall into thinking that our years of experience are all the preparation we need? It is easy to think that we have preached certain texts and doctrines so long that we could do it in our sleep. Perhaps God will graciously cause those in the congregation to do just that before more harm is done.

The prayerful heart in preaching is the heart that knows that without a movement of the Holy Spirit upon the hearers of sermons nothing at all will happen and so God must be petitioned to bless the preaching with fruit. There is the Leadership magazine cartoon of the preacher standing behind the pulpit preaching and in front of him is a brick wall, and who of us has not felt that? Without prayer that brick wall will win. It will win our hearts. It will create cynicism, despondency, depression. It will bring on a sense of failure and uselessness.  Patience will suffer and so will the willingness to persevere in our calling. Prayerlessness  may even create listeners who credit the lack of fruit on the preacher – and if we are not marked by prayer for all aspects of our preaching, including converts, then they may be proved right.

Matthew 9:35-38 – And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  [36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  [37] Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

It is a striking, significant thing that what Jesus calls the disciples to do in light of the magnitude of the harvest, is to pray. “Look, there are many lost people in desperate straits. They are lost without direction – Pray for people who will help them find me.”