Last month we considered the importance of being ready to preach with words as part of our witness as Christians in the world. As I try and live this out in my life, I find that speaking from the heart is often easier said than done.
What do I mean by this? Well, when it comes to sharing the faith, for many of us (myself included), it’s easier to make an informational statement than it is to speak from the heart.
For example, if asked, “What made you decide to go to a Catholic church?” I could immediately jump to an answer that brings up the historicity of the Church and apostolic tradition—and maybe even throw in a catchy theological phrase, like “fullness of truth” as the icing on the cake. And yet, while this is all true—I haven’t really shared my faith. I’ve only shared information. Information that could easily be found with a quick Internet search.
Answering the same question from the heart, I might bring up how it was a painful struggle, how I prayed and didn’t get a quick answer, or how many months into my struggle I had a period of tremendous clarity and consolation that I knew could only come from the Holy Spirit.
To preach the Gospel with words from the heart requires vulnerability. Information is important and good, but without sharing our experience—what makes it real for us—we are, in a sense, incomplete witnesses for Christ.
So how do we become more comfortable preaching and speaking from the heart? The more I try to be intentional about sharing my faith (and not just information about the Catholic faith), the more I realize preaching from the heart isn’t about just reading more theology or preparing rehearsed answers to questions. Instead it’s about prayer.
When we preach from the heart, we’re inevitably sharing our faith as experientially known through intimate communion with God in prayer. This means that if my prayers themselves have become rote—and not the authentic meditations, ruminations, and struggles of my heart—then what do I have to share? The more conversant I am with God in prayer, the more I’ll be able to trust the Holy Spirit in the moments I am called to preach from the heart, and simply speak the words of truth God places within me.
Our knowledge of the faith is vitally important, don’t get me wrong. But evangelizing is more than just sharing facts, it’s sharing how God has moved our hearts as well—something we can only experience and come to understand through prayer. The more comfortable we are in prayer, the more confident and ready we will be to share our relationship with Jesus Christ with others.
Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen