Almost a hundred years ago, sometime in the early 1920s, black activist and author and poet James Weldon Johnson wrote a prayer for his Episcopal church in Florida. The prayer was for the preacher. And what a powerful prayer it is. I’ve been told that when it was time for the sermon, one of the deacons would escort the preacher up to the podium and, with his hand on the preacher’s shoulder, lead the congregation in this prayer. As you can imagine, in that context and culture, it was a fully-participatory prayer. Everybody was in. Repeating the lines. Amen-ing the words. Nodding in enthusiastic agreement.
Can you just imagine how that preacher felt as his church blessed him that way every Sunday morning? Can you understand the power it gave him? The encouragement? The boldness he felt as his brothers and sisters charged him in the presence of God with speaking to them a word from the Lord?
Imagine the scene as you read the words to the prayer. Imagine you’re the preacher.
O Lord, we come this morning,
knee-bowed and body-bent before thy throne of grace.
O Lord, this morning
bow our hearts beneath our knees, and our knees in some lonesome valley.
We come this morning
like empty pitchers to a full fountain, with no merits of our own.
O Lord, open up a window of heaven,
and lean out far over the battlements of glory, and listen this morning.
And now, O Lord, this man of God,
who breaks the bread of life this morning, shadow him in the hollow of thy hand
and keep him out of the gunshot of the devil.
Take him, Lord, this morning.
Wash him with hyssop inside and out; hang him up and drain him dry of sin.
Pin his ear to the wisdom-post,
and make his words sledge hammers of truth, beating on the iron heart of sin.
Lord God, this morning
put his eye to the telescope of eternity and let him look upon the paper walls of time.
Lord, turpentine his imagination, put perpetual motion in his arms,
fill him with the dynamite of thy power,
annoint him all over with the oil of thy salvation, and set his tongue on fire.
Wow. Can you imagine how encouraged your preacher would be if you slapped him on the back early Sunday morning and told him to speak boldly and preach confidently? Can you imagine how much better your preacher would be if you hugged him and reminded him on Sunday mornings that he’s speaking for God and that you’re all ears? Can you imagine how much power that would give your preacher if he felt that from you?
Why don’t you try it this Sunday? It might change your preacher. It might change your church. And you might just be blown away by the dynamite of God’s power and the fire of his Holy Spirit.