(I have the profoundest respect for Dr. Eric Alexander. He is among the favored speakers at the historic Keswick Convention, Keswick, England. I was first introduced him through his ministry at Keswick. In 1997 he was a guest speaker at Samford University, Beeson Divinity School Pastors School. I was a workshop leader that year and was afforded the opportunity to spend time with Dr. Alexander. In the years that followed he preached in my pulpit numerous times, always to the great delight and blessing of the people. I count him among the greatest expositors of our time. He has a scholar’s intellect and a pastor’s heart. He is an authentic Christian.
Dr. Alexander on Prayer and Preaching
Prayer and preaching belong together, and not just because of alliteration. They belong together in the mind and wisdom and purpose of God. Prayer is the sine qua non of preaching, because true preaching is not merely an intellectual or oratorical exercise, depending on human skills. It is a spiritual work, depending on the power of God to make His word living and effective, and the anointing of God, to make the preacher the vehicle of God’s grace. That is why it is possible for someone to be brilliantly gifted as a scholar, an orator and a communicator, and yet, in the pulpit to be an irrelevance so far as God is concerned. The prayerless preacher is a contradiction in terms, as is the prayerless church. Dr. Campbell Morgan, who preceded Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Westminster Chapel, London, often told of a crisis in his ministry when he became aware that he was popular in the world, but largely useless to God. It was as if God was saying to him, ‘Preach on, great preacher–without me.’ He went through a spiritual battle all that night, until the morning he was bowed before God, acknowledging his absolute dependence on Him.
It is this question which is at issue when we think of the relationship between prayer and preaching; where is my confidence? On what power do I ultimately depend? Do I covet a reputation more than the anointing of God on my ministry? Have I, also, allowed a division between prayer and preaching? It is never too late to put this right. Go now and confess your error to Him, and then settle before Him the God-given priority of ministry as in Acts 6:4, ‘We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ Pray for prayer partners to be raised up to pray for you. If you do not yet have a prayer meeting in your own church, seek the help of other prayer meetings to pray for your preaching.
The church leaders who may read this, let me urge upon you the absolute necessity of a praying people for the preaching of God’s word. You cannot separate prayer and preaching. A friend of mine (more bold than I!) once spoke with the leading laymen in a church he was visiting, ‘Do you have a prayer meeting?’, he asked. The reply was, ‘No, we do not have such a meeting, but we have just invited a fine young preacher to be our new minister.’ My friend responded, ‘If you do not have a prayer meeting in your church, you have no business inviting a minister into your pulpit.’ Professor Finlayson of the Free Church College in Edinburgh was once asked, ‘What is the greatest need of a young man entering his first ministry?’ His answer was, ‘A praying people.’
It concerns me that in many evangelical churches which do have prayer meetings, the part of the work least prayed for is the preaching of the word on the Lord’s day, and the one who has that responsibility. Paul pleads with the church at Ephesus to pray for him, ‘that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.’ May the church of Jesus Christ in our generation learn in depth how inseparable are prayer and preaching, and put what we learn into practice.
Eric J. Alexander, Epilogue to, Prayer a Biblical Perspective.