Listening is a critical skill that needs to be learned over time, and with much practice.
You must learn to listen to the person you are serving. This means that you have to learn to still your mind, and control yourself from entering into a conversation with the pray-ee as though this were a counseling session.
It’s a session of listening.
So the pray-ee first.
Then you must learn to listen to your own thoughts as the prayer is going along to hear if the Holy Spirit has given you a word of wisdom. An insight into what is before you.
And you must learn to listen to your own thoughts. So that you can distinguish your thoughts from God’s thoughts coming to you.
Listening in these three manners are all subjects of other lessons.
This lesson is about learning to control your assumptions about the person sitting before you.
There are times, I know, when an ill person goes to a doctor and the doctor looks at the symptoms, doesn’t question his diagnosis, and proceeds to be completely wrong. This happened with my own grandmother, whose sudden onset of severe vomiting was an indication that she was having trouble with her heart.
But the doctor waved it off as her taking a wrong vitamin. Or whatever.
Perhaps if he had understood that what he was seeing before his eyes was not what he thought it was, my grandmother would have suffered less.
And that is what can happen to us.
We can listen to someone, hear what she is upset about, and jump to the conclusion that that is where we should be for prayer.
But the labyrinth of a person’s mind, heart, and soul is a very complex one.
A daughter who seems to grieve her father’s physical abuse may really need to heal an embarrassing situation she experienced. This before the abuse.
It’s odd, but we are odd.
Small, side issues can appear to be small and unimportant, but they might wind up being the key to the healing after all.
When I was a child, I had an older brother who when he became a teenager found that he had the ability to manipulate the people around him very well.
We were only 15 months apart, so had grown up treated like twins. And we were very close.
So while I grew up to be comfortable with my visions, Geoffrey grew up to be comfortable with lying to people.
He had this game: He would come up to someone and say, Don’t you just hate so-and-so? And then go on criticizing that person and getting his victim to go along with it. In the end he would say, You’re the only person I can talk to. You are my best friend.
Now because we had been close our whole lives, I thought the end part was meant for me.
But the beginning, the Let’s Hate So-And-So, part made me increasingly uncomfortable.
I rejoiced the day that I realized he was pulling this act with others in the family.
Now we had a first cousin, a girl of whom I was very fond. She was my age, but very different from me. And I found her difference refreshing.
When my brother died, I sat with her after his funeral as she wept.
Sobbing she said, He told me I was his best friend!
I kept what I knew about my brother to myself at that time, but many years later, when the subject was brought up, I told her what Geoffrey was really like.
And my cousin blew up at me. How dare I question his friendship with her? How dare I say anything negative about him at all?
But, you see, I had lived arm and arm with him all my life.
So I knew that even before he discovered his, Let’s Hate, game, that he really, really didn’t like our cousin.
He never did.
So I let it go.
But recently, I’ve been working on forgiveness for this whole love-triangle thing, as it were.
But something kept rubbing up against me.
I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful small, healing prayer group, and so I brought it up there.
Why couldn’t I let this whole matter go?
And one of the members of the prayer group, while praying, received an image of a nose. So he shared that with me.
So I took that home and prayed about it, and it came to me.
One day, when our cousin was out playing ball, one hit her in the nose and bent it terribly.
Eventually her nose was fixed, but almost immediately after the accident and before I knew what my brother was up to, he came to me to talk about how our cousin’s bent nose made her even more unattractive.
One of the things my brother disliked (and I liked) about our cousin was how plain she was.
And I agreed with him.
In that moment, I had played his game with him. I had entered into his Let’s Hate world.
And for all that time, that is what I felt guilty about.
That is what I really was grieving about.
That I betrayed both my cousin and myself by agreeing with my brother’s cruel eye.
A terribly small and seemingly insignificant thing.
One that we might not find when praying with someone, unless we allow ourselves to listen and listen and listen.
Listen so much and so gently that we can hear the lack of resolution that is there.
We may want to claim success because some healing has taken place.
But that’s just it.
Some isn’t all.
And some isn’t healing.
It’s a beginning.
But it’s not the end.
It’s not what is needed to set the person free from what they are grieving.
So the minute you sit down with a person, start distrusting yourself.
It’s better than over-trusting yourself.
And you can do this by checking in with the person.
Ask if what you are feeling is accurate for them.
And don’t stop asking.
Never Assume Anything.
There just may be an image of nose hidden in there.
Just waiting to be found.