Listening and Praying

Thank You, Friend

Photo credit: SHaurT, Creative Commons

A few years ago, my friend Dave read a book about being a pastor. The essence of it, he shared, was a pastor’s job is two things: to listen and pray.

The title of pastor is interesting. Some people think you have to be hired to be one, others think you have to go to school to be one, while many think it’s a spiritual calling regardless of your vocation. If you’ve spent time with a collective of pastors, you would know each one is unique regardless of how he or she became one. One pastors differently than the next and like anything else, they each have the thing that makes them good at what they do and the thing that is hard for them to do.

Another word for pastor is shepherd, and shepherds are known to spend time tending, caring for and herding sheep. Some are better at tending especially when sheep are struggling; some are better at caring, feeding and nourishing while others are gifted at moving people from one place to another.

People tend to look for answers from their pastors, but pastors are really supposed to lead people to find their answers in God Himself. To do that well requires us to listen more than we speak.

Here’s the thing… pastors rarely have all the answers. A good one hopefully looks for answers from the Spirit and Truth and these two things are accessible to anyone.

I’m not just a pastor. I’m also a friend, a wife and mother. In each of these roles, I am faced with hard questions reminding me of the necessity of wisdom when I’m feeding people or caring for them during the most fragile moments in life.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Sometimes these conversations lead me to recognize life is precious and the creator of it is Holy and the fear of saying the wrong thing, the thing that could lead someone away from where God wants them is enough to keep my mouth shut and just listen.

“It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26

The problem is, if you know me, you know I am also a highly opinionated person who loves to process life verbally so being quiet is not exactly the thing I am naturally good at.

In the last year, conversations I’ve had, the tears I’ve shared, the anxiety I have felt with someone about what’s next, have led me to understand there are more answers in listening than in speaking. It is better to listen and ask God to speak through me than to just say something that seems good simply to make a person feel better. Because when God speaks, it’s as though you can feel His breath on the back of your neck as the answers come out in the listening. Your heart begins to quicken and you can often see from the look in the other person’s eyes, Jesus is moving among us. That’s when you know who the real Shepherd in the room is. The One who is always there, always listening, always has the answers, even when He waits to give it until the appointed time.

The truth is none of us have a lot of answers for a lot of things. The older I’m getting the more okay I’m becoming with the phrase “I don’t know.” It’s not an evasion of truth, or a walk along the fence, it’s the truth there are simply some things we don’t know how to answer or how to walk out immediately. What I do know is, we are called to love people. We are called to hear people out because that’s what God does. We are also invited to trust God and wrestle with His words in humility, leaning not on our own understanding as He leads us into the next right step without fearing what is unknown in the steps following.

All this can be practiced in the process of listening and praying. And it takes eternity to get it right.

11 thoughts on “Listening and Praying

  1. jannacatherine says:

    Good word, Suzie. I like the reminder that each pastor is gifted in a different way for the sake of the sheep.
    I was just telling someone last night how we need to listen without speaking… unless through the guiding of the Holy Spirit. I can’t tell you how many people knew my heart was broken and would throw out, “God has a plan.” I vowed I would never say that to someone in pain. I knew God had a plan, but that didn’t help me when I already felt hurt by God and something said so flippantly, almost in a desire to have me stop crying as soon as possible, was almost salt in the wound.
    We must learn to act in love and stillness rather than a desire to fix all problems as soon as possible.

    • Suzie Lind says:

      It’s so true Janna that we often say things, even quoting scriptures, however well meaning when that’s not the thing God intended to say in a moment. When I think of all the times I’ve been that person who has said,”God has a plan” or “All of it is for a purpose,” it makes me so sad. Not that any of that is ever NOT true, but an aptly spoken word is like apples of gold… and the conversely, the wrong word at the wrong time can do more damage than good.

  2. iblessed@me.com says:

    As a trained spiritual director this is exactly what our ministry is all about….sacred listening in prayerful and loving presence! Thank you for reminding all of us who the True Shepherd is and defer to Him always.

  3. Jaimie Bowman says:

    Loved this – especially this quote: “Because when God speaks, it’s as though you can feel His breath on the back of your neck as the answers come out in the listening. Your heart begins to quicken and you can often see from the look in the other person’s eyes, Jesus is moving among us. That’s when you know who the real Shepherd in the room is.” Beautiful, Suz!!

  4. Julia Schmidt says:

    “The older I’m getting the more okay I’m becoming with the phrase “I don’t know.” ” Amen! You know, one of my kids is really good at giving an authoritative and plausible answer even when she has no idea what the truth is. She thinks her “I suppose” is reasonable enough and probably close enough to the truth that it’s okay to share it without first qualifying it as a guess, and apparently “I don’t know” is just not an acceptable choice. And many times she’s right, so she gets away with it, but it’s those times that she announces that someone has left for work, when they haven’t, or put away the ice cream, when it’s still sitting on the counter, when her “I supposes” backfire. I get so frustrated with her disseminating wrong information… but then I wonder how many times I do the same thing…. cringe. It really is wisdom to keep your “I supposes” to yourself and wait instead for God to speak!

  5. Linda Massey says:

    Thanks for putting words to what God has been teaching me. This sentence summed it up for me. “Because when God speaks, it’s as though you can feel His breath on the back of your neck as the answers come out in the listening.” Love you and thankful for how you are listening to God and pastoring us.

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