"He must speak it in my heart": Pray for the Spirit to accompany the Preaching of the Word!

As evangelicals, we rightly place a great deal of emphasis on the power of the Word of God as it is preached and heard. We trust that God does indeed work through His Word. And that's why preaching takes such a central place in church services and sermon prep takes (or should take) such a good deal of a minister's time. Seeing that God is at work to deliver Christ through his Word prevents us from thinking it's all down to us and our delivery. But neither is it all down to us and our prep. The preaching and hearing of the Word needs to be accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit. And if we want our preaching, or our minister's preaching, to be accompanied by the effective working of the Holy Spirit, we should pray!

Let me just share a passage on what Luther had to say about this. The block quote Paul Althaus' summary, and the quotations within it are Luther's own words.

The activity of the Spirit which always occurs through the word, must first be added to the preaching and hearing of the external word; and it is not always added at once. It exists as a second factor together with the preaching and hearing of the word. "It is easy enough for someone to preach the word to me, but only God can put it into my heart. He must speak it in my heart, or nothing at all will come of it. If God remains silent, the final effect is as though nothing had been said." There is no doubt of the fact that God does work with his Spirit through the word. He has, however, not delegated the power of the Spirit to the word but rather works freely through the word in the manner appropriate to the specific situation. He does not give the preacher control over his Spirit. Sometimes the preaching and the hearing must wait for him. We have to pray for the gift of the Spirit to accompany the word. The preachers can preach the law and the gospel. But they have no control over the way in which they strike and convert people. God himself controls that. So God's Spirit must work together with the preaching. It is God who converts men. Through his activity the Spirit makes the word effective on whomever he chooses, and whenever he chooses. Both the "on whomever" and the "whenever" are important. The "whenever" means that we must wait for the Spirit; and God sometimes waits awhile before allowing the word to be effective in the heart. The Holy Spirit knows very well how to remind the heart and give new power to the word which may have been heard ten years before. This means that the word can often remain in the heart many years without having any effect; and then God's Spirit comes can makes the previously heard word effective.
(Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, pp.38-39)

So, pray for tomorrow's preaching of the Word. Pray that God would accompany it with the effective working of the Holy Spirit. And pray as well for those who don't come out to hear God's Word anymore but who have heard it in the past, that God by His Spirit would bring the Word they have already heard back to them with fresh power.