My heart’s condition determines my capacity to listen. To listen necessitates the same humility and self-sacrifice required to serve others. Robert Greenleaf wrote, “A true natural servant automatically responds to any problem by listening first. True listening builds strength in other people.” To listen is to laydown my life for another.
The self-absorbed heart is deaf to the needs of others even when people are speaking (or shouting) directly to it. The problem is not a deaf ear but a diseased heart. A whole heart will seek to understand what is being said whereas pride sees little need to listen.
Jesus says it this way:
“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Matthew 15:13
God listens because God is love. God asks us to pray because without two-way communication there is no loving relationship. At great cost He restored his relationship with man so that He, in part, could listen. He loves to listen because He loves much.
To follow Jesus and to be Godlike is to willingly laydown my life for others by listening well.
 Robert K. Greenleaf, http://www.concordiaonline.net/what-is-servant-leadership/
The absence of prayer and meditation on the Word of God in the life of your disciple is an indicator that he may be bitter at the Lord. The lack of a quiet time is not a discipline issue but a relational one.
Our ministry has many young adults, which means a lot of dating. I am humored at how the same young man who struggles to find time for devotions will discover plenty of time for his new girlfriend. What motivates these couples to make time for one another is not a newfound discipline but love. We spend time with those we love and we make time to do the things that we love.
Man is created in the image of God and therefore we relate to him in a similar way that we do with our fellow humans. As we withdraw emotionally from those who have wronged or disappointed us so we withhold our hearts from the Lord when disillusioned with him. We are usually ill at ease around those who have hurt us and so it is awkward to spend time in prayer with the God whom we believe has let us down.
- The type of people with whom your disciple spends his time is an indicator of his heart condition. Bitter people usually do not spend time with Godly people.
- Help your disciple understand that his relationship with the Lord is love centered and not just a discipline.
- When your disciple is struggling with prayer and time meditating on the Bible check to see if he may be disappointed with some circumstance of his life that he has carried over into his relationship with the Lord.
Love has the strength to absorb. This absorbency is seen in Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind . . . it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs . . . it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Jesus was able to absorb the immature behavior of his disciples and even their abandonment on the night of his crucifixion.
An evidence of love’s absorbency will be your ability to listen to your disciple, especially during times of failure in his life. A person who does not love has a hard time making room in his heart to listen. Our natural response to someone’s failure is disappointment, which turns to frustration, and finally anger. Our tendency is to try and “fix” others by instruction. (If only he would listen to me!) We would be better advised to listen to our disciple at times of their failure rather than just instructing. To listen intently will give you an understanding of the problem and then at an appropriate time you are able to give right counsel to your disciple. (Often I ask my disciple to give me 48 hours after our initial conversation so that I can process what he has said to me.)
Listening is a powerful form of love that transforms the life of your disciple. (This is why I believe prayer is an essential part of spiritual growth. When I pray God has all the time in the universe to listen to me and his infinite love is able to absorb my rambling, joys, frustration, sin, and failure). As M. Scott Peck has said: “The principal form that the work of love takes is attention. When we love another we give him or her our attention…by far the most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening…listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work.”
Peck, M. Scott “The Road Less Traveled”
(Austin: Touchstone Publishing, 1998)
My dad has prayed for me every day for 52 years. It is difficult to describe the security and love that I feel each time he says to me, “Son, I pray for you every day.”
Prayer is a gift of love for you to give to your disciple. Telling your disciple that you pray for him is just another way of saying “I love you.” You may not have money, possessions, or position, but all can give the gift of prayer.
In addition to love, prayer for your disciple communicates value to him as you bring his name before the God of the universe for His consideration and blessing. There is something about someone interceding on our behalf that communicates worth.
Both Jesus and Paul give us the example of a discipler praying for his disciples. Jesus prays for his disciples throughout his ministry, and we even have one of those prayers recorded for us in John 17. Paul not only consistently prays for his disciples, but he also regularly tells them that he prays for them and gives them the content of those prayers (e.g. Ephesians 1:15-23).
Most believers will never have the experience of someone daily praying for them. I know of no better way of loving your disciple than to daily offer up prayers on his behalf.
Here are a couple of things I do:
- I take the prayers of Paul and pray them over my disciple. (“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give Nate the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that Nate may know him better…” Ephesians 1:17)
- Periodically I send a text message or email to my disciple to let him know that I prayed for him that morning.
- I keep pictures of my disciples from over the years in a 3 x 5 box and rotate the pictures as a prayer reminder.