If Sermon Prep is Not Merely a Human Endeavor…

A simple note to self.

Dr. McKay Caston
3 min readFeb 6, 2024

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It should be obvious, but the sermon prep process is not merely a human endeavor.

We believe that the Holy Spirit is actively working in and through us as we craft our messages and as we deliver them.

Or do we?

I have a confession.

When I was a young preacher, I cried out to the Father for the grace of wisdom, insight, and understanding, when crafting every sermon.

Then I gained experience and more education.

Guess what happened?


The more experienced I became and the more education I received, the less I prayed during my sermon prep process.

Experience and education are good and valuable.

But leaning on human intellect and experience is a huge mistake.

One side effect is that, if I am relying on my ability and insight to prep and present a message, I will begin to take idolatrous pride in my preaching.

I also will begin to stress more not less in crafting sermons, because my identity rests on how I perform in the pulpit.

You may not struggle with that. But I did. And still do.

The issue is this.

We need the Holy Spirit to guide our sermon preparation and to empower us when presenting the message.

Just reminding ourselves and affirming that truth puts us in a good place of self-awareness.

It’s that self-awareness of our human weakness and limitation that motivates us to pray for the grace of the Spirit in the sermon prep process.

Consider just a few passages of Scripture.

  • “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.” –Hebrews 4:16
  • “You do not have because you do not ask.” –James 4:8
  • “Ask and it will be given to you.” –Matthew 7:7
  • “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified” –2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “Pray also for me, that the utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” –Ephesians 6:19

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

I’m just reminding us, lest we think that a sermon prep process can take the place of the presence and power of the Spirit–which it can’t, or at least shouldn’t.

Remember, just as our salvation is totally dependent on the saving grace of God in Jesus, everything we do is dependent upon the enabling grace of the Spirit. Even preaching.

So, consider yourself reminded. 🙂

Review and Discuss

  1. Why might a pastor pray less for sermon preparation as he gains more experience and education?
  2. Why do you think it’s easy to neglect prayer in the busyness of sermon preparation?
  3. How can relying too much on our own abilities and intellect in sermon prep lead to pride and stress?
  4. What role should the Holy Spirit play in sermon preparation and delivery?
  5. How can reminding ourselves of our dependence on the Spirit’s guidance put us in a good place of self-awareness?
  6. How do the verses shared about approaching God’s throne for help, asking, and praying apply to sermon prep?
  7. What do you think it might look like to truly “bathe the entire sermon preparation process in prayer?”

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Dr. McKay Caston

I create resources to help folks tether their lives to the cross of the risen and reigning Jesus | www.mckaycaston.com