It's a long time since I went off on one (gave in to the temptation to rant) so here goes:
The pastor as shaman
I think I did write about this before, a woman who was thrilled after asking me to pray for her, and me happily doing so, to find that I am a pastor. Did I also write about the time I was in a church service where people could come to the front for prayer at the end of the service and I was invited to go down and pray for people, too. "You're a pastor, come and pray for people."
Now don't get me wrong, I hope I'll never vote against prayer - unless it becomes a substitute for action - and I'm very happy to pray for people habitually and specifically.
But the pastor's prayer is not worth more than anyone else's. The pastor is not some kind of shaman, invested with more spiritual power than other people.
The pastor as conjuror
That was a tricky one, and I can hear the word "but..." arising in my own heart as well as in yours, gentle reader.
But this next one may be trickier still - the pastor is not some kind of conjuror where what he has to do is find the right form of words and the magic happens. We are in danger of treating expository preaching like the mediaeval Catholic Church regarded the sacraments - ex opera operato - you do the hard work, you learn how to do it, you prepare, you research and you do the exegesis and the application, then you preach and - hey presto - "the power is in the word" and it works.
No, it isn't like that. It still takes urgent, earnest, believing prayer and the kind of attitude that sees that without the Saviour all we can do amounts to nothing.
I raise this because I really think that we are starting to get hung up on our techniques and prayer is becoming perfunctory at best, absent at worst. We believe that we can do it. Aaarrggghhhhh! That way leads to formalism and death.