Top Five Preaching Rituals, Routines, And Habits

Given that this is US Open time of year, the Charlotte Observer recently ran a story about the rather unusual — OK, bizarre — routines, habits, and superstitions that pro tennis players bring to their games.

For example, Andre Agassi went commando in his first match at the 1999 French Open . . . and when he won that particular match, then went underwear-less for the rest of the tournament, which he won.

Other players eat the same meals every day as long as they are winning while still others, like Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz, refuse to shave until they are out of the tournament.  That’s why he was lightly bearded in the semi-finals of Wimbledon but silky smooth after losing in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

You can read the whole story here.

The article brought back some . . . comforting?  alarming? . . . memories of my own idiosyncracies when I played competitive tennis.  For example, I wouldn’t step on the lines of the court when I changed ends during a match.  I would always use the same ball on the next point if I used it to hit a good shot on the previous one.  I’d wipe my grip off with a towel before every serve.

Maybe my favorite involved a tournament in Corpus Christi, Texas, which I ended up winning when I was 16.  At the time, it was the biggest event I’d ever won and the best I’d ever played.  And before each match that week, I had some Dunkin’ Donuts.  Suddenly that became the ticket!  I had to have a doughnut before every match, Corpus Christi or not.

Well, that superstition ran out about as quickly as the nutritional value of my chocolate eclair.

Anyway, what, if anything, does all that have to do with today?

Quite a lot, apparently.  Because I recognize that I have certain fixed and immovable habits around my preaching at Good Shepherd.  I’m not going to call them superstitions because I believe God is in the whole process.  But I will call them idiosyncrasies because I know I’m in the process.

1.  Prepare messages at least four weeks out.  The next sermon I need to prepare, for example, will be delivered on October 13.  I figure that since I need to get one ready almost every week, I might as well be working on them well in advance.  I’m pretty sure I’d have ulcers if it ever got to be Thursday night and I didn’t know what I was going to preach for Sunday.

2.  Familiarize myself with the coming Sunday’s message every morning before I leave the house.  So while during the day I’m developing & writing a sermon for next month, early, early in the morning I’m getting to know the one I’ll deliver this coming Sunday.  Yes, I practice.  Sometimes I’ll pull one out that was prepared four weeks ago and then begin to practice it on Monday and realize, “Hey!  This is good!  I can’t wait for Sunday!”  Other times it’s, “Uh-oh.  This needs work.  And prayer.”

3.  Make detailed notes in microscopic writing on either Thursday or Friday.  I never use those notes. They just help me to get the flow of the message firmly in my mind.

4.  Pray over my preparation on Friday that God would send people of all nations and backgrounds and colors and languages to worship on Sunday.  I don’t know why Friday is my day for full color prayer.  It just is.

5.  After my Saturday run through, lay my hands over my preparation and pray for a full anointing the next day.  I also pray for several preacher friends at that time, that God would use them as a magnet to draw people into the Kingdom.  After praying for those friends, I pray for my own message.  A long, long time ago, during one of those Saturday prayers, I very clearly heard God say, “don’t ever preach without praying like this.”  So I haven’t.