Preaching with Fatigue–What Should One Do?

One weekend, I had returned from Virginia visiting with family over Thanksgiving, driving 500+ and arriving in town at 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.  I was struggling with ‘car-lag’ and it spilled over into Sunday morning in a big way.  I had difficulty in keeping my thoughts in line, my throat was dry and tired, and all my body wanted to do was sleep and regain some energy. 

This will happen. Missions trips, young children who don’t sleep well at night, troubling matters in your mind and heart–so many things can affect sleep and rest.

While I am not an expert on this matter, pastors can take these steps to help them maintain clarity and focus when they communicate. 

  1. Take some long, deep breaths before you get up to speak.  When your tired, the breathing becomes more shallow, and this means less oxygen to every part of your body—especially your brain.  While your physical body has a lecture or stand upon which to lean, your mind still needs as much sharpness as possible. 
  2. Maintain a simplicity in your content.  When someone is tired, the possibility of rambling increases greatly.  If fatigue comes in on a Sunday morning, this usually means a long tough week filled with many tasks.  Time for sermon preparation was at a minimum.  For many public speakers, this translates into a longer sermon rather than a shorter one.  Your mind does not have the sharpness to discern what to include and what not to include, so you include it all—even some tangents you may not have seen.  What is important is to keep on task and on track.  Say what you’re going to say, say it, then press on.  Be aware of your situation!
  3. If you lose your place, get to the gospel!  It’s easy to lose your place when fatigue grips you.  If you preach from an outline or without notes, but you lose your train of thought or the flow of the sermon, get to the cross and empty tomb—get to the gospel!  So many times, God uses the times when we lose our train of thought to get onto His—never a bad thing!
  4. Maintain a steadiness of pace in your delivery.  Fatigue not only doesn’t shorten a sermon (it often lengthens it), fatigue also quickens the pace of the delivery.  Your body is tired, your mind is tired, therefore your restraint is lowered as well.  The ups and downs, the speaking as well as the well-timed silences—all of those effects are lessened due to fatigue.  You risk just backing up the dump truck of information. 
  5. Put a bow on that sermon—a nice, tight bow.  It’s just as important to know not only how to start, you need to know how to finish.  Start promptly, end promptly.  It’s not just about the clock, it’s about the momentum of the sermon coming to a close when the congregation senses the sermon is done.  Sadly, many congregants understand when a sermon is done before the preacher does.  This increases with the pastor’s fatigue. 
  6. God is in control, so don’t sweat it and sleep well.  God’s Word will not return empty, but will accomplish all it seeks to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11-12)—fatigue or not!  So even if your personal delivery/presentation was not to your liking, your Spirit-fueled passion in preaching the Spirit-inspired Word will be honored by God.  Sleep well—get some rest.  If the Lord permits, you will have another chance very soon to bring it again!

What are some helpful tips for you?


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