"Need", "Want",
or "Ready For"?

Years ago I had a wonderful moment with someone that was really trying to help me. He succeeded to a great extent, even though I wasn't so sure his advice was that great, at the time. I have used it so, so many times since then, that I must share it with the rest of you.

He basically told me this: "Andrey, when I speak to a group of people, I know that telling them what they want to hear, won't really do them any good. They won't be challenged or grow from it. They'll feel good, but they won't benefit.

"I have learned over the years that it also doesn't work to tell them what I think they need to hear. It comes across as patronizing or self-righteous, and it doesn't really do them any good either. The message so often gets lost in the aroused emotions that it was just as much a waste of time as the first. However, it is emotionally much more traumatic for both sides.

"I now want to say whatever it is that they are ready to hear. Wherever they are in their spiritual walk, however high or low, whether smoothly or with great difficulty, I want to say what they are ready to hear. It is in fact the only thing worth saying."

How right he was, and still is. However, some of you may ask how one can know what it is that other people are ready to hear! For you are very correct in stating to yourself as you read this that IT IS HUMANLY IMPOSSIBLE. Yet, is it not a great desire? Is it not a wonderful thing to be consumed with inside? To say and do what those that are around you are ready to hear and see. What a wonderful goal!

Yet, for those that believe in a benevolent and personally involved God there is a way to actually do this for people! Here's one example from my life:

I taught a two-week long seminar on leadership and management. It was going well and I was having fun. Over a period of about three years I taught it about 45 times (that's 90 weeks of teaching to adults leaders!) and my friend relayed the above advice to me about half-way through those three years.

I took his advice to heart, and prayed the following before starting the seminar: "Lord, I do not know these 24 students. I do not know where they are in their walk with You. But You do! You know what they are ready to hear. Thank you for having me say what they are ready to hear, and having me do what they are ready to see. Amen"

Well, now to the specifics.

I was teaching on Friday afternoon about influencing people toward better behavior, when I realized that I had left the course outline and was somewhere out in left field. I had been there for about 10 minutes. I got back on track, finished that section, and dismissed the class for the weekend.

I proceeded to spend the weekend doing two things related to the classroom incident:

  • I beat myself up for going so far off course when I was 'more professional' than to do that, and second
  • I took God to task for letting me make such a stupid discourse in front of professional people.

No, that's not the end of the story. Monday, about mid-morning during one of the breaks, one of the attendees comes to me and says, "Andrey, when you were saying that stuff Friday afternoon (I cringed inside, here comes my punishment), it hit me like a ton-of-bricks. My wife and I talked about it all weekend long. We really have been handling our thirteen year old all wrong. I know this class isn't on parenting, but as you said, people are people and this stuff should work at home as well as at work. You have really helped us out and I thank you for both me and my wife." Okay, I smiled and thanked him.

Do you know what I did during lunch? I closed the door to my office and cussed God out saying, "Hey, what's the big idea? Why do you have me go through this all weekend long when it was for nothing? Why can't we do this on a Thursday, so that they will come back to me on Friday and my weekend won't be ruined?"

"Because it takes the whole weekend to get through your thick skull! If you would get the point after only one evening, I would put you through only one night!" <grin>

(In June, 2010, I added the following 'prayer', which I have started to pray.)

The Preparation Prayer

Lord,
Not what I, or others in our arrogance think I need next,
nor that which I or others in our neediness want next.
but that which You in Your love know that the soul is ready for.

Just as food is prepared by the master chef before being presented at the feast, and
just as the bride is prepared by her best friends before being presented at the ceremony,
prepare my heart and soul before presenting me in heaven to Our Father.
Amen