5 [a]Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.
June 29, 2012
Let My Words Be Few
“Code blue! Code blue!” The alarm rang over the intercom of Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City where I was interning as a chaplain. The alarm was not unusual for a big city hospital. The only thing different today was that I was the chaplain called to respond and this was my first time. A code blue of course meant that a patient had stopped breathing. In some cases the response team was able to revive a patient but in this case, all of their efforts failed and the patient died. What do I say to a group of people I have never met when their loved one has died? In the panic of that moment, all my training failed me and I did what most rookies do. I talked too much. I asked them how long there loved one had been sick. I offered them coffee and water. The family was gracious to me, but I don’t think I was very helpful to them. Over the next two years of responding to a hundred calls like this I learned what people need at time like this. They didn’t need my words. They just needed my presence. A hug when appropriate; a simple prayer, and a few words of comfort from the Holy Scriptures was more than sufficient. They will forget what I said, but they will remember that I was there.
This writer of Ecclesiastes understood this principle well. We preachers could stand to learn it as well. In chapter 6:11 he writes, “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” We don’t need more long winded preaching and endless prayers. We need space in which we can listen. From our position, what do we have to say to God? Is there something we can teach Him? Is there anything new that He hasn’t heard? I wonder if prayer is more about being with God that talking to God? Of course, we should talk to God. Jesus gave us a short succinct prayer as a model for how to address God.
In my best worship experiences, I don’t always remember what was said, but I remember what I felt. I sensed that I had been with God. Today let’s resolve to talk less and listen more. You may that realize the wonderful truth that God still speaks. This song by Phillips Craig and Dean expresses these sentiments better than I can say them: Sit back, listen, and receive.