My father, who has been with the Lord since 2006, was an old-time Pentecostal preacher, and never willing to apologize for that either. You had to know my Dad and know a little about him to appreciate how hard he worked at studying for his messages. He was not an orator, not smooth, but he was real. When he preached, you sensed that He had been with Jesus, because he actually had been with the Lord. I'm not sure what the ratio was of praying to studying, but as he poured over the books in his study, with notepad out and his fairly giant Dake's Annotated Study Bible open, I recall many times knocking on his door only to find him on his knees. For him, studying was something that he had to do to prepare his mind, while praying was something he had to do to prepare his heart. No matter what label you wear, Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian or no label at all (since, in reality, the only label we see in the NT was "Christian"), can we really dispute the correlation between study and prayer for the purpose of being effective in our ministry to communicate the Word? I don't think so.
I once heard a preacher by the name of A.A. Ledford, someone my Dad and I admired, say, "Never go into the pulpit unprepared." I always thought he meant preparation as it relates to study, but as I've gotten older, I see that he really meant both study and prayer.
I wonder how many of us preachers and teachers, in the age of Powerpoint preparation, forget the importance and vitality of praying over what we have studied so that it would be communicated effectively, not based on our desire to impress, but based on our desire to see the Spirit of God accomplish something in the hearts of the listener. Prayer keeps this goal in focus. If we study and don't pray, we might fall into the trap of thinking that we are studying just to preach a "good" sermon. Yet, prayer keeps us close to the heart of God who desires to communicate His heart through your sermon preparation and delivery.
There were other times that I would be looking for my Dad before a service. I'd knock on the door to his office, but he wasn't there. At that point, I knew right where to find him. He could be found in the prayer room of the church asking the Lord to minister in a mighty way to the people. I recall the day I left for Bible college. My Dad, stood in our living room and said to me, "Brent, find the prayer room." His advice still rings in my ears. It wasn't, "Brent, find the library." Nor was it, "Brent, find this really great commentary set that I know will help you in your study of the Bible." It was, "find the prayer room."
I started out writing this blog post with the intention of sharing my perfect preaching solution, some of the tools of our age of technology that have been enormously helpful to me. However, as I began to remember my Dad's perfect preaching solution, it seemed so clear to me that it wasn't all the books on his bookshelves in his study; it was his dependence on the Holy Spirit as he bent his knee before the service to express his need for God to use him in that meeting.