A favorite prayer of mine from the Valley of Vision is A Minister’s Prayer. It breaks down into 4 themes of petition that every godly gospel minister will know.
The first petition sets the trajectory of the entire prayer, moving the minister’s attention away from what is seen in worldly success, to what is unseen in eternal salvation:
O MY LORD,
Let not my ministry be approved only by men,
or merely win the esteem and affections
But do the work of grace in their hearts,
call in thy elect,
seal and edify the regenerate ones,
and command eternal blessings on their souls.
The second petition always recalls for me the George Herbert poem, The Window. As every minister knows, we sit under our own ministry and our own preaching. We can therefore become so aware of our own sinfulness as to be overwhelmed with the glory we carry in the few small scraps of words we bring. We are just boys, aren’t we, with our few small loaves and fish? But when quickened by the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, it brings eternal salvation to desperate men.
Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;
Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word,
that seed sown in weakness may be raised
Cause me and those that hear me
to behold thee here in the light of special faith,
and hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;
Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself,
and help me to experience the power
of thy dying love,
for thy blood is balm,
thy presence bliss,
thy smile heaven,
thy cross the place where truth
and mercy meet.
The third petition is a request for protection against pride in the minster. It is so easy to seek affirmation, to look for some sign of your effectiveness outside of God’s promised means of grace in the preaching of His Word. When I was in the Established Church of England I noticed how it took a minister strong in the Lord to resist the invitation of the powerful that seek his opinion and to “serve the community”. It is so easy to create a ministry project that “serves.” It is quite another and much harder work to stay focussed in your preaching, to pour over the Scriptures, to improve your clarity and personal plea to repentance and faith.
Look upon the doubts and discouragements
of my ministry
and keep me from self-importance;
I beg pardon for my many sins, omissions,
as a man, as a minister;
Command thy blessing on my weak,
and on the message of salvation given;
Stay with thy people,
and may thy presence be their portion
The final petition is a reaffirmation and reminder that all we do in ministry is for the greater glory of God. We need the reminder because we can quietly abandon through neglect what our heavenly Father has established is to His glory with something much less worthy but much more comfortable for us.
when I preach to others let not my words
be merely elegant and masterly,
my reasoning polished and refined,
my performance powerless and tasteless,
but may I exalt thee and humble sinners.
O Lord of power and grace,
all hearts are in thy hands,
all events at thy disposal,
Set the seal of thy almighty will
upon my ministry.