May 29 I Sunday
2 Chronicles 7-9
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...” —James 1:19
When we pray, do we begin by listening? Unfortunately, for most Christians, we tend to rush into the presence of our Creator and begin talking; yet, God is so gracious and patient with us even when we do. If we enter into God’s presence with a posture of listening, He is always ready to speak life and love into us. Perhaps, because we do not often listen in prayer, this is reflected in our conversations with one another. In other words, we rush into conversations without a posture of listening.
Have we ever been in a conversation where we know the person that we are talking to is not listening to us? It makes us feel small, right? Like we do not have anything of value to say. One of the ways to reflect the heart of God in life-sustaining conversations is to listen honestly. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Does this describe our dialogue with people? Would the words “gentleness and respect” come to mind after people have spoken with us? One of the best ways to show respect to people is simply to listen.
As Christians, we should be the best listeners of all because we serve a God who actually listens to our prayers. However, Christians are somewhat notorious for being bad listeners; people do not want to enter into conversations with us because they feel we are already prepared with an answer. This is why Peter makes the point of “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you.” Theologian Os Guinness once said, “Christians are very busy answering questions that no one is asking.” We have our answers prepared; in fact, some of us are trained to have the answers ready, but we are not trained well to listen to the questions people are asking.
For lost people, they need to be listened to much more than they need to hear our answers. The first step to establishing a sincere friendship with them is to make them feel truly valued and respected. As we lead them into a sincere relationship with a loving Creator, a God who will listen to them, we need to model that for them. After we listen, we can respond well in a caring way, but be careful of “ambush listening,” where we listen specifically for opportunities to pounce and drive the point home to win the argument. Conversations—life-giving conversations—are not a chess game. We are not looking to win; rather, we are seeking to listen honestly.
Prayer: Lord God, thank You for setting the example of what it means to be a great listener. Help me to reflect who You are in the conversations that I engage in by listening honestly and responding with gentleness and respect.