“Thanks for being an inquiring, listening, and praying friend.” These were the words I emailed yesterday to John. John, a retired university professor, and his wife, Win, are volunteer staff members with our district. In their retirement they have given themselves to the ministry of encouraging pastors and their wives.
Sue Ann and I have been on the receiving end of their ministry. We met John and Win at a district event shortly after arriving in Clinton. Some months later as they were passing through Clinton they took us out to lunch. Over the years since then we have had numerous conversations with John and Win. I have stayed in their home overnight. John has given me several books, one of which has been a stand-out among the books I’ve read in recent years, bringing me timely and significant help.
As John and I sat down to eat lunch together at the Central District Pastors Retreat earlier this week, John said, “Tell me what you’re struggling with, or what you are rejoicing about … or whatever you want to tell me about your life.” I knew these were neither idle words nor merely a social nicety. It was a genuine invitation, and I took him up on his offer! While my food sat on my plate I shared with John my struggles and my joys. As he listened, he pulled out a pen and a little pad of paper and jotted down some notes. I am sure he was not writing down “to do” tasks for later or shopping list items. He was taking down prayer reminders.
The gift of listening is precious. It brings strength and encouragement. It lifts burdens. It opens the door to healing. It connects two people deeply.
I hope you have a friend who gives you that gift. I hope you are a friend who gives others that gift. Ask how your friend is doing, and then listen. Really listen. As they share, engage with them through direct eye contact and comments or questions which draw them out further. And pray, right then or later in private.
I am grateful for an inquiring, listening, and praying friend.