Personal Devotions: An Invaluable Resource for Preachers


A preacher’s personal devotional time with the LORD is invaluable.  It is our time to connect with our LORD in prayer, Bible reading, Bible study, and reflection, aside from our ministerial responsibility to study and prepare sermons and lessons.  I admit, it can be difficult to focus on feeding ourselves when we are facing the never-ending deadlines of teaching others several times a week.  It is very easy to mistake our sermon prep time with our personal quiet time with God.  But we need this personal time!  I try to make it a point to read Scriptures, even study and research as I read, in portions of the Bible where I am NOT currently preaching from.  It helps keep me refreshed and loving God’s Word in a personal way.
That being said, I am about to contradict myself!  I also believe our personal devotion and study time can also be an invaluable source of sermon material.  I don’t know how many times I have been studying Scripture and the LORD impresses me about a future sermon series or message topic.  That is when I write it down immediately and file it away for the future.  In fact, I have a note file specifically for sermon ideas.  It never fails that I come back to it in the future!  But there is another benefit as well.  Let me make my point by sharing a recent situation which preachers face from time to time.
It was early Sunday morning, I got up around 5 am to pray, review and finalize my message and lesson for that morning.  I was looking forward to the evening service when a guest musician would be presenting a concert.  That was when I noticed a message on my phone, in which the musician shared that something serious had come up and he had to cancel his visit to our church.  I was somewhat disappointed that he would not be able to come, but I completely understood.  My second thought was, “What am I going to preach?”  I had nothing prepared.  Ever been there?
It is in times like these, when we have to speak with short notice, that we can go back and review how God has spoken to us in our personal time with Him.  What verses stood out?  What did God challenge you with?  Even though you will not have your usual time to prepare, you can share from the heart, from the overflow, something fresh that God has spoken to you about recently.  In my experience, those times are used greatly of the LORD.  In our weakness, He proves to be strong.  In our inadequacy, He is more than enough.
I would not recommend this be your regular habit in sermon preparation, but what a great opportunity to “go to the Well” and share with others how God has fed your soul!  How has your personal devotional time proven to invaluable in your ministry?  Leave a comment below.


Start Your Sermon Prep Early!

Preachers are well aware of the mounting pressure that builds throughout the week as Sunday approaches.  Yes, there are many details to orchestrate for the weekend services and activities, but it all pales in comparison to the weight of sermon delivery.  God’s people come to His house to hear from Him and His Word.  And this burden of ministry rests squarely upon the pastor’s shoulders.

Adequate study and preparation is a process that takes many hours.  That is, if you want to avoid the “Saturday Night Special.”  However, there are so many responsibilities and interruptions that hit us throughout the week.  And with each delay or detour in our plans the pressure kicks up a notch.  In the back of our mind we always know that there is a message to prepare for, and we are not ready.  But, ready or not, Sunday’s coming.

What have I found that works for me (if I just do it)?  Start early.  I mean, Monday morning – or Tuesday, if that is when your work week begins.  Before the staff meetings, before the Wednesday message, before the mail and phone calls.  Start taking notes and drafting your initial thoughts on your text.  Get something down on paper.  Don’t worry if the points are clear, or if it even makes sense!  Just start early.

This way you have several days to allow your thoughts to gel, to read commentaries and do research, to think of illustrations.  The congregation will be greatly blessed by it, your family will be blessed by a not-as-stressed husband and father, and you will be able to give your full attention to other matters at hand.  I wish I could say I am consistent at this, but the Lord knows the truth. But I have experienced it enough to make it my weekly goal.

What have you found to be helpful in sermon preparation?