I’m not a huge fan of the Taste of Chicago, but on occasion we’ll go check it out, especially when there’s a new or exotic food that’s being featured. Well, one year that we did go, a homeless guy asked me for some food tickets. But when he asked, he gave me a spiel…a planned out and practiced speech. Although I knew what he wanted, his words and they way he said them turned me away:
Him: “Hello sir, I can see that you’re a fine young man…”
Me: “Sorry man.”
Him: (still continuing with his speech, not taking the first no for an answer)
Me: “Sorry man.”
Now, I really don’t mind helping out the homeless, and often when I do, we’ll pick up some good conversations. But regardless of who you are, if you’re going to ask me for something, then I want you to ask me…if you need help, then ask me for help. But don’t come to me with a scripted out speech, acknowledge me. Have you ever had a salesperson try to sell you something by giving you a spiel? Turns you off right away, doesn’t it? Every good salesperson knows that a good sale is one to somebody who will come back, and the way to be sure they’ll come back is to acknowledge them, be real, and actually talk to or with them, not at them. So when you say hello, look me in the face and tell me straight out what you need me to do for you. But because you’re saying the same to everybody, and continuing on as if I’m not even here in front of you, I’m wondering if you’re really going to use the tickets for food. So because I’m not sure, my answer is, “Sorry man.”
I think some of us make this same mistake when we pray. We’ll think that to talk to God, we have to have certain words scripted out…say “the right words”, as if there’s some special formula you have to say to get God to do or give you what you ask. But there’s not. And I can tell you from experience that if you keep telling God the same thing every time you go to Him, your relationship with Him will become very dull. You may even begin to see Jesus more as a lucky-charm, genie in a bottle-like entity, etc. But God is alive! He’s a living entity, and prayer with Him is a conversation, not a 1-way spiel, and Jesus wants you to acknowledge that He’s there with you, in the conversation. He wants you to tell Him what you want or need. Sure, He already knows, but He likes to hear it not only from your mouth, but also from your heart.
Do you need something? Then just be honest and ask. Imagine if the homeless guy had done this:
Him: “Excuse me sir, but I’m really hungry and can’t afford tickets to get some food. I was wondering if you could spare/give me some of your tickets so I may get something to eat?” (or something of that nature)
Me: “Sure man, I’d be happy to give you some of my tickets. What are you planning on getting?” (conversation begins about the different foods being offered, I know that I’ve given him enough tickets, etc.)
I think one of the best examples that Jesus gave us on how to pray is in the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel. He didn’t use specific words, but poured out His heart to the Father for His disciples/friends, and also for Himself.
Look also at the way the Leper asked Jesus for healing in Mark 1:40 “If you are willing, you can heal me.” He came to Jesus, poured out his heart, asked from his heart, and the Bible says that “Jesus was filled with compassion.” Then Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” And immediately, the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
When you talk AT somebody, or just give a spiel, you sound like you don’t really mean (or need) it, or are asking for the wrong reasons, so no positive connection is made. So if you do this, regardless of who it is to or what you’re asking for, then don’t be surprised if the other person’s only response is “Sorry man.”