An Important Way To Pray For Preachers
Powerful portion of a sermon from Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians 6:18-20, specifically on Paul asking the Christians at Ephesus to pray that Paul would declare the Gospel boldly (sermon #4252, starting at 31:52—click HERE for audio).
This portion of the sermon has been such an encouragement and inspiration for me over the last year (as of October 2017) when I have sometimes literally been trembling in weakness, for many reasons, as I was about to preach:
“This mystery, this mystery that’s been revealed, this message, this glorious Gospel of Christ, this unsearchable riches of Christ, that’s what [Paul’s] concerned about. And what he prays for is the preaching of the Gospel and the spread of the Kingdom.
But let’s notice in particular just in headings
what he’s particularly concerned about is this:
That utterance may be given unto me that I may open my mouth boldly. Pray for me, says the Apostle, that I may have power of speech and freedom of utterance when I open my mouth, when I have an opportunity of speaking.
Now this is a most interesting point. The fact is—and we tend to forget it, don’t we—that the Apostle Paul was not a good natural speaker. You remember how he tells us that the Corinthians were taunting him and saying,
“His presence is weak and his speech…contemptible.”
Apollos was the orator, Apollos was the great speaker, Paul wasn’t. He was a stumbling, somewhat halting speaker. And he was very deeply conscious of that, that’s why he prays here, he says,
- ‘Pray for me that utterance may be given to me, that when I get an opportunity of speaking that I’ll have the words, that I’ll have the liberty, that I’ll have the freedom, that I’ll be able to speak, that I’ll be able to take advantage of the opportunity. Pray,’ he says, ‘that my tongue may be unloosed, that my lips may be made mobile, that I can speak with freedom.’
That’s the thing he’s praying for. It’s most interesting. That this mighty man of God, realizing his own deficiencies and imperfections, pleads with these people to pray for him, that he may be able to speak freely, fluently, without halting and without stumbling.
But you notice the thing on which he puts his great emphasis, it is this word “boldly,” “that I may open my mouth boldly”—he repeats that. “That therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Now what does he mean by this, and what is the particular emphasis here?
Well I think this is most important at the present time.
Do you pray for the preacher of the Gospel, my friends?
Do you pray for me?
Do you realize what happens every time a man like myself enters the pulpit?
Frail, fallible, weak,
and yet called of God to be a representative and an exponent
of this glorious Truth!
Do you pray for all preachers of the Gospel?
And do you pray this in particular for them: that they may speak boldly?
What does [Paul] mean?
Well he means freely, he means frankly, he means that nothing be kept back. If I may borrow the very words used by the apostle to the elders of this church of Ephesus, when he bade them farewell—you’ll find the account of it in Acts 20—he said that he had not failed, he had not refrained, from declaring to them the whole counsel of God.
That’s it. Boldly, says Paul…or pray that I may keep nothing back, he says,
that I may give it all, that I may give the Gospel as it is:
Negatively, pray says Paul that I may be delivered from qualifying the Gospel and my statement of it, by carefulness, and by endless modifications and qualifications.
Now I’m emphasizing this because surely this is the great trouble at the present time: we are all so diplomatic, we are all so concerned about dignity, and we are all so concerned about balance, we are all so afraid of fanaticism. We don’t pray today that preachers may speak boldly…we want them to speak…with balance.
And so you read sermons, and they say, “Though this…nevertheless!” Afraid you see of being too extreme, being too emphatic, “granting this…and yet!” And so, you have your endless qualifications.
And the result is that the people don’t know what the Gospel is—“while it’s true to say this…nevertheless you must always remember!” And so what’s said at the beginning is taken back at the end…and you don’t know where you are…”and the trumpet yields an uncertain sound.”
We are so afraid of offending people that we tend to say nothing. And so the Christian faith is in jeopardy at this hour. “Ah,” but you say, “we mustn’t say anything to offend Rome, we’re going to have a dialogue with them, we’re going to have a conversation, so you must be very careful! If you do have a criticism you must qualify it at once, say ‘nevertheless we must add this’.”
That isn’t what the apostle asks people to pray for—boldly, says Paul, without qualification. Pray that I may be honest, pray that I may be true, pray that I may deliver the message that’s been delivered to me, that I shall not be concerned about anything but this. In other words, he says, “Pray that I may be delivered from the fear of man.”
Fear of man how?
Well, afraid of the learning of men. The apostle reminds us that he had become a fool for Christ’s sake. The philosophers in Corinth were laughing at him and jeering at him.
- “Look at that man,” they said, “always saying the same thing, just that simple message about the cross as he calls it, he doesn’t argue, he doesn’t reason out the great philosophies, he doesn’t give us these mighty disquisitions. The man’s a fool!” they said.
“Alright,” says Paul, “I am, I am become a fool for Christ’s sake.”
Don’t be afraid of the learning of men. Any man today who preaches this simple gospel will be criticized by the sophisticated and by the learned ones. They say,
- “Fancy still believing the Bible, fancy still believing the early chapters of Genesis, fancy still believing in the virgin birth and in miracles—rubbish, the things out of date, it’s antiquated, the man’s a fool!”
Very well, says Paul, pray that I may not listen to such criticisms, pray that I may go on preaching the gospel boldly, let them say what they will, give me strength to preach it as it is, without qualification, without fear. Take from me any desire to be considered learned, to be considered scholarly, to be considered a polished orator.
There’ll be many people, says Paul, in the congregations watching for what they call “a beautiful turn of phrase”—pray that I may be delivered from that snare, says Paul, pray that I may preach the Gospel boldly, not elegantly, that I may preach it in Truth! Not in a manner that appeals to the public palette. That’s what he means, that he may ever be bold. That he may never be a “man-pleaser,” that he may never be afraid of the scorn and the abuse of men.
Furthermore, he says, pray that I may preach it boldly, and you need to pray for many a preacher today that he may do the same thing. Pray that this preacher, in his difficult position in some little country village, perhaps, may be delivered not only from a fear of men’s intellect and their supposed knowledge but that he may be delivered from a fear of their money…because the day may come when he’ll be told by somebody who can virtually control the church financially, “If you go on preaching that I’ll stop my subscription!” [tithing] It’s happened many a time—it’s still happening.
Pray, says the apostle, that he may be enabled to go on preaching boldly, come what may, relying upon the living God not upon any man. Pray for boldness, honesty, assurance, and certainty, in spite of men or their power in any respect whatsoever…boldly! That’s what he means.
But then he qualifies it by this last phrase.
“That therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.”
What does he mean by that?
Well he’s already told us in chapter 4, in verse 15 and in verse 16 still more: “That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness wherein they lie in wait to deceive, but speaking the Truth, in love.”
That’s the qualification. May grow up into Him in all things which is the Head in all things, which is Christ. Pray for me says the apostle that I may present this Truth boldly and yet pray that my spirit may be kept sweet that I shall not become partisan, that I shall not become fanatical that I may not become sectarian in the wrong sense, or just a “party-man” fighting for a label…
Pray that I may be concerned about God,
about the Lord Jesus Christ,
about the Holy Ghost,
about the Kingdom of God,
the salvation of men and
the advancement of the Truth.
As I ought to speak…
Here is this mighty man of God you see, knowing his own weaknesses, his own tendencies, knowing the frailty of human nature.
And what he asks for these people to pray for him is the very thing that men and women in the Christian Church should be praying for the preachers of the Gospel at the present time.
Pray that we may be delivered from a spirit of compromise,
pray that we may be guided, rather [not] by diplomacy, by expediency,
pray that we may be delivered from fear for ourselves.
Pray that we may rather be like these apostles and the first martyrs and the Protestant Reformers and the Puritans, the Covenanters and all the mighty men of God…that Truth shall come first, that we may speak it with boldness and yet have hearts full of love and mercy and compassion.
Because, why should we contend for the Truth?
Well the answer is this: it is the only thing that can save men…let us therefore look beyond men to their lost souls, and let us be concerned about nothing but the glory of God and the salvation of men and women. So the apostle exhorts us to be praying with all perseverance and supplication for all saints, for all preachers of the Gospel, whatever their circumstances and conditions, that they may speak of the mystery of Christ boldly as they ought to speak.” [end of quote]
And that, dear friends, is one important way
that you can pray for preachers of the Gospel…