I’m not sure if it is original to him, but I have heard Alistair Begg tell pastors that sermon preparation should involve at least four components:
1. Think yourself empty
2. Read yourself full
3. Write yourself clear
4. Pray yourself hot
Anyone who has spent time preparing expository sermons knows the wisdom of this advice. If I might be so bold, I would add a fifth component I have found very helpful during my own sermon preparation:
Sing yourself glad
Never once have I heard anyone say that singing is a useful part of sermon preparation. I would not be surprised if other pastors sing as part of their sermon prep, but I personally have never heard anyone encourage pastors to sing during their weekly study. Typical sermon prep involves exegesis, meditation on the text, outlining, reading secondary sources, prayer, and writing. But I am suggesting that singing helps with sermon preparation and will help make for better sermons.
Why? Because preaching is not just a running commentary or a mere academic lecture. Preaching is worship. Preaching is not merely explaining a passage of Scripture, it is rejoicing over it and the God it reveals. John Piper is known for describing the act of preaching as “expository exultation.” I think he’s right. If we are going to exult over what God has said, then singing ourselves glad is a great way to get in the right frame of mind. Obviously we want to faithfully explain the text, but we also want to be glad in the truths we proclaim. Singing helps us get there.
So if you write sermons, try it. After you have done the hard work of exegesis and study, pull up some of your favorite soul-stirring hymns and sing along. Then sit down to write a sermon that will not only be informative, but doxological. Sing yourself glad.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands, I sing for joy. (Psalm 92:4, ESV)