Lloyd-Jones turns to “The Preparation of the Preacher” in Chapter Nine, meaning how a preacher prepares himself personally (apart from specific sermon preparation, which will be the next chapter) week in and week out to preach. He covers the areas of self-discipline, prayer, Bible reading, and other reading–all areas that are helpful to any Christian to consider now and then.
It is important for a preacher to have self-discipline because of generally having more control of his schedule than other jobs. Lloyd-Jones is not saying that this is because a pastor has too much free time, but rather that he must be self-disciplined with the time he has because the demands of ministry will take away the time needed for study for preaching otherwise! His recommendation is to safeguard the mornings for study and use the afternoons for other ministry responsibilities, but he also gives great wisdom in encouraging each pastor to personally realize what time of day he is most effective in study.
Surprisingly, but refreshingly for a “spiritual giant,” Lloyd-Jones does not say that a pastor must begin prayer at 4am or he has not done his duty. But of course, he encourages times set aside for regular prayer. The most helpful nugget to me in this section was the recommendation to always respond to every impulse to pray. As he explains, “The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this–always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit…So never resist, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing, but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect.” (182-183)
This is one of the great privileges of being a pastor that we may miss if we are not reminded that it is indeed a privilege. When I worked as a Sales Rep during seminary, there were countless moments of quick prayer in my heart. But I never could have stopped what I was doing and spent even a minute in concentrated prayer because then I would not have been doing my job. The pastor, on the other hand, can pray, and pray often. Some of the most intimate times of personal prayer and worship have been when I have been studying for a sermon, and suddenly the truth of what I have been seeing in God’s Word will explode in my heart in praise. Surely this should be expected. God’s Word should move us to worship. But Lloyd-Jones encourages us to go with it–to actually stop and pray when those moments come.
Lloyd-Jones’ main advice is to read the Bible systematically so that you do not only read favorite sections of Scripture. He also recommends that all preachers read through the whole Bible in its entirety at least once every year. There is another invaluable nugget in this section of Chapter Nine: while Lloyd-Jones says to not read the Bible to find texts for sermons–but rather because it is the food that God has provided for your soul, he also strongly recommends stopping and making skeleton outlines of sermons when a passage hits you hard or opens up while you read. There is wisdom from years of preaching here: “A preacher has to be like a squirrel and has to learn how to collect and store matter for the future days of winter.” (185)
Reading for the Soul
In addition to Bible reading, Lloyd-Jones insists that other reading is necessary for a preacher to stay sharp and educated, to get wisdom, and to hone his thinking skills. This is a constant, and he acknowledges that it is a constant battle to find time to read in addition to Bible reading, sermon prep, prayer, and other ministry duties. He recommends the Puritans (especially Richard Sibbes) for devotional reading, as well as regular reading in theology, church history, biographies, and even personal reading in other areas such as history or science.
I am thankful for Lloyd-Jones’ continued practical advice and encouragement to pray without ceasing, and to make time for Bible reading and other books. All of this is not to make a pastor puffed up, but to keep him fresh and growing. “The preacher is not meant to be a mere channel through which water flows; he is to be more like a well.” (192) There are always many things crying for a pastor’s attention, but to use another analogy, the blade must be polished and sharpened constantly.
Source: Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Preaching & Preachers: 40th Anniversay Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.