Bill Bennett in his book, Thirty Minutes to Raise the Dead, records the following story. It is a reminder to we preachers and teachers and those who listen to us to pray.
“A preacher was invited to address the inmates of a large penitentiary. The afternoon before he was to speak he paid a visit to the institution. The warden showed him around, and at last they came to the chapel. It was a large auditorium seating about fifteen hundred people. “It will be full tomorrow morning, sir,” said the officer. It was not the number of seats, but rather the two particular seats on the front row that intrigued the preacher. “Why are those two chairs in front draped in black?” he asked. The warden replied, “The two men who will occupy those seats tomorrow are under sentence of death. On Monday they go to the electric chair!” “Under sentence of death,” repeated the ministry quietly. And then he said, “Do I understand that this will be the last service they will ever attend?” “Yes, sir,” was the reply. “Your sermon will be the last one they will ever hear.”
The preacher had seen all he wanted to. He must find a place to be alone and do some quite thinking. When he reached home, he went to his study, took out the sermon he had prepared, reviewed it, then tore it up! “This is of no use,” he said. “It does not meet the need,” Then falling on his knees, he prayed, “O God, give me a message for those two men who will be sitting in those draped chairs.”
There are “draped chairs” in every congregation; therefore, the preacher must preach with a sense of urgency. One does not have to be loud to be urgent. But one must be moved to the depths of his soul over the lostness of humankind and to plead in Christ’s stead that they be reconciled to God.”