One thing I have noticed about Jesus as He is revealed in the Word is that He not only heard what people said, He heard things they didn’t say. This is only possible through prayerful listening. Jesus heard the harsh, unspoken condemnation of the Pharisee in Luke 7. He heard past the religious smokescreen of the woman at the well in John 4. People often say one thing and mean another. They ask questions without really wanting an answer, but are instead trying to open up their heart and seek healing of a deep wound. They are sometimes covering up anger at God or others. Reaching people involves in depth listening skills. You must look into their eyes. You must notice their motions and movements. You must hear the tone of their voice and not just the words. Above all you need the Spirit to reveal to you those unspoken words.
Some may object that Jesus had power as the Son of God that we do not have. To be sure, that is correct. However through prayer we actually tap into some level of that spiritual insight that is displayed in the encounters of Jesus.
When my father was still living, he sought to hold off the effects of Parkinson’s disease by taking frequent walks. During many of those years we served more than six hours away in a pastorate in South Texas. One day as we were visiting, I took a long walk with my father through the streets of my hometown. As we walked my father asked, “Dan, do you think you will ever serve back closer to home?” I began to answer in strong terms that God had opened the door for me to serve where I was and that it was my duty to be there. As I launched into my sermonette, I looked over at my father’s bowed head and trembling lips, and God silenced me and showed me that what my father really wanted was to say that he missed me and longed for me to be closer. I spent the next few minutes expressing my own desire to be nearer and my determination to not let the miles keep us too far apart. Someday in heaven I will tell him how much I learned that day by simply looking at his face. I think of it often as I labor to speak to someone of Jesus.