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“Pour Through Me the Gift of Preaching”

2015 November 12
by Mike

It was in the mid-to-late 1990’s when I got up one Sunday in the Highland pulpit with a keen sense of inadequacy. Perhaps it was the lingering fog of grief—a kind of sea smoke that washed over me many mornings. Or maybe it was just a sharpened sense of the awesome task of speaking a word on behalf of God. (“Woe to me! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!” – Isaiah)

Used with permission

Used with permission

But in my prayer that morning, these words came out: “Please pour through me the gift of preaching.” And that might have been the last time I offered that prayer except that afterward Rebekah Zeller came up to tell me how much those words meant to her.

So then I had to actually think about them. And the more I thought about the task of preaching, the more they said just what I believed.

So I started offering that prayer every Sunday, and have now done so for the past nearly 20 years.

I wish I had saved every story parents from Highland told me about children who were asked to pray at dinner or at bedtime and who blurted out those words: “please pour through me the gift of preaching.” I love that! The rhythm and regularity of worship had settled in their hearts. And I love it whenever I hear a young minister offer the same prayer.

The words continue to express a deep mystery that I don’t fully understand. Preaching involves deep study, prayer, rumination, and imagination. But in the end, it is the Spirit of God who blesses the words and again speaks afresh from the Word of God to the people of God.

10 Responses leave one →
  1. November 12, 2015

    Your phrase “lingering fog of grief – a kind of sea smoke” speaks to me. In recent months, grief has challenged and humbled me too as I sally forth to preach. We should talk. Keep studying, praying, and ruminating, Mike. May God continue to comfort you, my friend.

  2. Collin Packer permalink
    November 12, 2015

    Since I began preaching seven years ago, that phrase has been my prayer from the pulpit every single Sunday. Every one.

    I learned it from you.

    I can’t imagine how many preachers pray that prayer weekly and how many churches pray the Lord’s Prayer weekly because of your decision to constantly keep these kinds of prayers as rhythms for us.

    Thank you!

  3. Ben Fike permalink
    November 12, 2015

    I’ve also adopted this phrase as part of my prayer of illumination before the sermon each week. Picked it up when I was a sophomore at ACU listening to you preach every week.

    Thank you for teaching me.

  4. Larry Henderson permalink
    November 12, 2015

    Thank you, Mike. That phrase has continued to bless my life–even if mostly through podcasts in recent years. Re-re-re-re-listened to Unclean Jesus earlier this week.


  5. Sara Barton permalink
    November 12, 2015

    I prayed this prayer for the first time earlier this month. It was prayed with quite a bit of emotion, even some trepidation about how it might be received, considering the history of being denied the gift of preaching for so long. I was a bit teary when I prayed it, and I was thankful for your example. And the gift was graciously given and gratefully received.

  6. Jan Meyer permalink
    November 12, 2015

    I can still here your voice as you prayed this each week. And I am one who can testify how God answered over and over again as you opened the Word and spoke truth. Thank you for allowing God to lead you…and having the courage to pray confessionally.

  7. Mike permalink
    November 13, 2015

    Thanks so much for these words. There are so examples in my life of how “the student” has far exceeded “the teacher.” So thankful for what God is doing through you many (younger!) ministers whom I’m privileged to know.

    And Sara, yes. You do, indeed, have both the passion and gift of preaching.

  8. November 13, 2015

    Thanks for sharing this. Ten or so years ago, I heard you pray this prayer before a sermon and started praying it before my sermons too because, as you point out, it is really the Spirit who works in the sermon. And when I say that prayer, I also ask that the Sprit will enable the church to hear the word of God.

  9. Ryan Lassiter permalink
    November 17, 2015

    Thanks for teaching me this prayer. I feel the inadequacy often, and these words have brought me comfort. I also hear it often from other young preachers and I think, “Ah, Mike Cope has gotten to them too!” You’ve modeled good preaching for many of us young folks.

  10. Nick Zola permalink
    December 30, 2015

    Dear Mike,

    I pray an alternate form of this prayer each week as I stand before my class. I ask God to give me the gift of teaching. But like the others who have commented, it comes directly from the example I learned listening to you preach in Abilene. I have simply adapted it for my context. I think of you every time I say it. Thank you for the gift of this humble prayer. Each time I pray it, it reminds me of whose service I am in and the source of any gifts I have.


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