Richard W. Patt, in his book "All Stirred Up," talks about a public speaker on a television show who was attempting to describe the deepest needs we have as people. According to him, there are three that are most important to us.
The first is the need to have someone who will listen to us. The contention is that each of us has a story to tell that is both important to us and that is interesting to the listener. It is a story that ties together experiences in our lives and provides meaning to who we are and why we do things.
Each of us needs to be able to verbalize what that story is and how we feel about it. Each of us needs to share that story with someone who is willing to listen to us. It is a continual need. As simple as this may sound, you and I frequently find ourselves with this need unfulfilled, whether in business or in friendship or in marriage or in parenthood.
The second is the need to have our listener believe the story we are telling. We want someone who not only will hear what we have to say, but who also will trust that what we are saying is true. Only when these two needs are adequately fulfilled does genuine, human communication occur.
Genuine communication needs to be continual because most of us are constantly growing and changing. Obviously good communication is a two-way street on which both listener and hearer are able to change roles with one another.
The third is the need for both listener and hearer to trust one another. We need to communicate with someone who will not take advantage of our vulnerability toward them, who will not abuse the story we tell, perhaps by gossiping or by misusing what we have told them. We need to have someone who will remain on our side even despite the story we tell. Genuine communication is not as common an occurrence as we might like to think it is, in great part because it is built on the foundation of genuine love.
The Christian answer includes God as the primary party. It begins with the premise of broken communication between us and God, which then results in a similar problems between us and others. The Christian answer contends that when we are reconciled to God we are then enabled to be reconciled to others. Communication between us and God usually takes the form of prayer. Henri Nouwen, the Roman Catholic priest who has authored many books on the life of the spirit, has said that "through prayer we can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war, all hunger, loneliness and misery - not because of some great psychological or emotional capacity - but because God's heart has become one with us."
The Bible states it this way: "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, because God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:9-12).
By the way, today is the World Day of Prayer.
Doug Rich is the pastor of Pioneer Presbyterian Church in Clatsop Plains.