IT isn't uncommon to find ourselves in the position of having to make a presentation to fellow employees, a potential client, a church congregation, or some other body of people. For many, though, the prospect of speaking before assemblies, even small ones, is frightening. Fear of not knowing what to say, or the right way to say it, puts a damper on the grace and ease we'd all like to feel when speaking. But this fear can be dissolved through an understanding of man's unity with God, the one Mind--the source of all good ideas.
I'll never forget a speech I had to give before a gathering at a banquet for a public-speaking class I once took. It turned out to be one of the most embarrassing five minutes of my life.
When I began to speak, I panicked. My memory went blank, and I began to fumble for words. Soon I wanted nothing more than to melt into the floorboards and never be seen by anyone in that audience again. I had hoped the course would put me at ease with speaking before others, but I finished it more terrified than ever.
This awful experience made me realize that any real relief from fear was going to come from God, so I turned to the Bible and searched for a solution.
I noticed that when the disciples were about to embark on their public ministry, Christ Jesus told them they would be brought before unfriendly audiences. But he said, ``Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak'' (Matthew 10:19). This counsel made speaking before strangers sound easy, but from a practical point of view it seemed idealistic and hopelessly unattainable. How could one ``take no thought'' and still know what to say?
Jesus went on to say, though, ``It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you'' (verse 20). The command ``Take no thought'' didn't mean don't think! It was an admonition to drop worry and self-consciousness so as to not miss hearing the Father's voice.
Spiritually, man is the image and likeness of God, and therefore images the divine intelligence and wisdom. As we understand our true identity to be spiritual, we find ourselves expressing more of these qualities, and they become like God's voice speaking within. God is always communicating to man.
The need on our part, then, is to listen to what God is saying. When we do, we'll find an abundant source of good ideas spontaneously coming to our attention that we might otherwise not have realized even existed.
Ideas inspire words. And words inspired by God have the power of Spirit behind them. They can't help having a positive healing impact on us and on those to whom we speak.
One time I was having great difficulty getting the message across to a number of apple-picking crews that they were bruising too many apples while picking. Most of the pickers were strangers to me and acted uninterested in any suggestions for improvement.
It was my responsibility to see the apples were picked correctly, and my talks on how to handle an apple from branch to bin correctly were not having an effect. So I prayed to hear what suggestions, or maybe even what new approach, would have a healing impact.
I saw the need wasn't to detail the materially obvious steps of how to handle the apples, but to appreciate everyone's God-given ability and desire to do a good job.
When speaking with the pickers again, I mentioned the need for continued improvement, but instead of outlining what human steps they should take, I put more trust in God's control and asked them to think of ways they could remedy the problem. I silently acknowledged that, as God's perfect children, they would know what to do.
The response was just right. A deeper respect for their God-given intelligence and ability remedied the problem.
The following quotation from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was written for clergymen; but its message could be applied to anyone wishing to be a good communicator: ``Clergymen, occupying the watchtowers of the world, should uplift the standard of Truth. They should so raise their hearers spiritually, that their listeners will love to grapple with a new, right idea and broaden their concepts'' (p. 235). New, right ideas help people, and God is the source of them. Speaking is sharing, and it is a good thing for us to share unselfishly with others what has been revealed to us by God.
Perhaps the greatest demand upon communicators is to listen. It requires discipline to keep thought turned Spiritward so as to hear God's ideas clearly. But when we do, we'll discern God's unfailing guidance--His ministering presence--and be able to speak with confidence, conviction, and freshness.
God's help has proved invaluable to me as I've learned to speak before strangers with much more poise since that speech class many years ago. Whether we are speaking to one person, or to one thousand, we can know that God is giving us the inspiration we need in a way that puts us at ease with our audience and frees us to say something worthwhile and beneficial.
Preach the word;
be instant is season, out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort
with all longsuffering and doctrine.
--II Timothy 4:2