Most preachers end their sermons with a prayer or a prayer period. For some preachers, the prayer closing one sermon differs little from the prayer ending another. However, I have long found it helpful not only to plan and write my closing prayer (or, in some cases, the benediction to close the service), but to actually make that prayer the first thing I do when writing my sermon.
Here’s why. Defining what I will be praying for my listeners or asking of them at the sermon’s close is one of the best ways I know to define and sharpen the aim of the whole sermon from beginning to end. Knowing where I’m going to end helps me to know how to start and how to proceed. It starts the sermon preparation process “with the end in mind,” to cite a familiar phrase.
Do you plan to prompt your listeners to experience new life in Christ as a result of your sermon? Or do you hope that your hearers will reach a new level of commitment by the time the service concludes? Or are you going to ask them to surrender a particular sin or rise up to a specific task? Whatever the case, write the prayer that will close your sermon first, and then let it guide the rest of your preparation.
Bob Hostetler is a literary agent, an award-winning writer, editor, pastor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His thirty books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored eleven books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices), and the award-winning Don't Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. Bob was ordained to the ministry in 1980 by the Salvation Army and earned degrees in English Bible from Cincinnati Christian University and English Communications from Bloomfield College. In 2000, Bob (with his wife, Robin) helped to co-found Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. They have two children and four grandchildren. He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and (with Robin) a foster parent to ten boys (though not all at once). They live in Hamilton, Ohio. You can follow Bob at @bobhoss.