For a preacher to actively and truthfully die in the pulpit it is essential that the labours of his preparation and delivery be prayerful. Prime and Begg (On Being a Pastor, 68) make the point abundantly clear:
Prayer is our principal and main work. It has priority over the ministry of the Word in that it must come first. It is by prayer that the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is effectively unsheathed.
And again they write (On Being a Pastor, 131):
Whatever our method [of sermon preparation], prayer and personal obedience to the Word of God must come first. The very spirit in which we prepare should express our dependence upon God and our personal willingness to be obedient to what He reveals to us to pass on to His people.
A man who is cut off from God in prayer will not be able to die in the pulpit because, except for the over abundant grace of God, he has journeyed to that point alone. There is little reason for a man to begin to depend on the power and grace of God in the pulpit if he has trusted in his own strength to that point. There is no formula for prayer that I am here suggesting. There is no minimum or maximum time required for God to bless and use a sermon. Neither should prayer remove all need to study and think. However, preaching is a matter of character and orientation born through prayer.
In his chapter in the Master’s Seminary book, Preaching (49), James E. Rosscup makes the wonderful point:
It is puzzling that books on essentials of sermon preparation frequently do not discuss prayer. This is even more perplexing when these authors claim to teach the biblical pattern. Prayer is not prominent among their essentials, as though prayer has no vital part. Neglect of prayer unbiblically casts it in a minor role. A sense of fairness would give these writers the benefit of the doubt and question whether they intended to leave such an impression. Yet when little or nothing is said about prayer and much is made of human craft and polish, only one conclusion is possible.
Rosscup makes an excellent and important observation. If we are to die in the pulpit, then it stands to reason that it would be good – necessary even – to die to ourselves much earlier in the process, so that in all things we bow before the Lord, asking Him to use us for His glory.