Vicar’s September Letter

Dear friends,

I wonder how many of you have received ‘Listening skills’ training. It was one of the courses that Sian and I had to take for Street Pastors, so I have been through this quite recently. I have done similar courses at various times in my life, at college training for the ministry and as part of ‘management training’ in various jobs I have held over the years at Rowntree Mackintosh, Girobank and Midland Bank. (Odd that the first three companies that I worked for after finishing university no longer exist! Not my fault, honestly!)

The main point is that listening is not just a pause in us talking. We should be able to sum up what the other person has said, either back to them or to someone else, or maybe ask a few questions to draw out more information on one or two particular areas of interest. We may want to find out a bit more information or explore what the person felt about what had happened. We may want to know what happened next, how did they react to what had happened, and so on. If we are asking questions, we should try to ask ‘open’ questions that will encourage the other person to talk some more and share more. (A closed question is a question that could be answered with a single word, often ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. An open question requires at least a sentence or two to properly answer, with some details of information or feelings.) To really listen is to engage with what someone is sharing and to do our best to understand what happened, how the person felt and the outcome of whatever is being described or talked about. If it was a special occasion, why was it special? You get the idea.

Anyway, you may be wondering why I am talking about listening. Well, it is important in all of our general relationships, but, more significantly, it is also important in our relationship with God. Prayer is supposed to be a conversation not a monologue. So how can we hear what God is saying? Well, we need to be quiet, to leave space and time for God to speak. And we need to listen. It might be helpful to read some scripture. Some of the Psalms may help, some of Jesus’ words in the Gospels may help, some of Paul’s teaching in his letters may help. It might be helpful to talk to others if you are praying about a particular issue, you might hear God speaking to you through other people. You might hear an answer in a conversation, a Bible study or a sermon. We must learn to listen and to hear God speaking in different ways in different situations.

I hope that when we are in conversation with others that we really try to listen to those we are talking to. I hope that when we are in conversation with God that we really try to listen to what he is saying to us.

God Bless,

Mike

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