Martin Luther’s Advice for Discouraged Preachers

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

I like preaching and I am convinced of its value and necessity, but I rarely find it easy.  Preaching is not for the faint of heart.  Preachers easily fall into the trap of being overly self-critical or self-congratulatory, comparing themselves with other preachers.  For those reasons and more, I found the following bit of advice from from Martin Luther both helpful and encouraging.  The excerpt below is from “Here I Stand”, Roland Bainton’s classic biography of Martin Luther.

"Luther was constantly repeating to himself the advice which he gave to a discouraged preacher who complained that preaching was a burden, his sermons were always short, and he might better have stayed in his former profession. Luther said to him:

'If Peter and Paul were here, they would scold you because you wish right off to be as accomplished as they. Crawling is something, even if one is unable to walk. Do your best. If you cannot preach an hour, then preach half an hour or a quarter of an hour. Do not try to imitate other people. Center on the shortest and simplest points, which are the very heart of the matter, and leave the rest to God. Look solely to his honor and not to applause. Pray that God will give you a mouth and to your audience ears. I can tell you preaching is not a work of man. Although I am old [he was forty-eight] and experienced, I am afraid every time I have to preach. You will most certainly find out three things: first, you will have prepared your sermon as diligently as you know how, and it will slip through your fingers like water; secondly, you may abandon your outline and God will give you grace. You will preach your very best. The audience will be pleased, but you won't. And thirdly, when you have been unable in advance to pull anything together, you will preach acceptably both to your hearers and to yourself. So pray to God and leave all the rest to him.'”

(Roland Bainton, “Here I Stand - A Life of Martin Luther”, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, 1950, p.348-349)



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