Archive for the ‘5-Minute Primers’ Category

Some people are gifted in their ability to “think on their feet,” while others aren’t. The gifted seem to have an innate capacity to answer questions, make points, and recall almost anything in an informative and clear way, while those not so gifted struggle in all of those areas. I don’t think, however, that this is an unbridgeable gap. We can learn to think on our feet and get better at it.

I listened to a podcast a few days ago that made that very point. Lisa B. Marshall, in her The Public Speaker: Quick and Dirty Tips, gave some excellent advice. She was responding to a question from a listener who said she could make a good presentation or give a good talk because of her preparation, knowing what she wants to say, and due to the fact that it’s a monologue and not a dialogue. The listener, however, dreaded being asked questions because she doesn’t thin well on her feet. Marshall gave 3 points to remember and put into practice when you’re asked a question.

  1. Restate — When you’re asked a question, ask the questioner to repeat it. Quite often, the question will be stated more concisely or clearly than before. You can also repeat the question in your own words, and then ask the questioner if you have it right. This tactic gives you time to think about your response.
  2. Pause — Always take a moment (but not too long) to think about how you’re going to answer the question and how you want to frame it. Pausing gives you time to reflect and think and keeps you from a hasty or “snippy” answer, especially if the question is emotional or has some criticism in it.
  3. Structure your response — Your answer should have some form of organization to make sure your answer is not too brief or rambling. There are 3 basic structures involved in responding to a question – they all involve dividing or breaking down the answer into smaller parts.
    1. PREP — State your position. Give at least one reason. Provide an example or story that supports your position.
    2. PEP — State your position. Provide an example or story that supports your position. State your position.
    3. Divide and Conquer — Use divisions such as “past – present – future,” “problem – solution,” “cost – benefit,” “ideal  -reality,” or “low – medium – high” to form a simple structure for your answer.

The best way to think better on your feet is to practice answering  easy questions, which will build your confidence.


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Prayer is one of the most basic spiritual disciplines of the christian life. Along with intake of the Bible (read it, hear it, study it, meditate upon it, memorize it, and apply it) and involvement in church, prayer is absolutely critical to the life of a growing, maturing Christian. We need all three of them to be balanced. In other words, doing one or two of them well will not make up for a lack in the third.

But what is prayer? The most basic way to define prayer is expressing your thoughts and feelings to God. Prayer is not, as commonly thought, a conversation with God (the Lord audibly responding is something that is very, very, very rare in the history of the world). As it has been said (well, I might add), God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to Him through prayer.

To whom should we pray? We pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ (God the Son) in the power, or under the direction of, the Holy Spirit. It’s acceptable to pray to Jesus or to the Spirit, but it’s more rare in the Scriptures than prayer being offered to the Father.

Praying “in the name of Jesus” is not a “rabbit’s foot” added to the end of a prayer to make sure it gets beyond the ceiling of our room, and it’s not even a sign to others that you’re through praying. We are to pray in a way that is consistent with the nature and character of Jesus, which is what the concept of “name” means in Scripture.

Prayer is made up of several elements: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. We adore and praise God for who He is – His attributes, character, nature, essence, and personality. As we reflect on the perfect character of God, we’re driven to confess our sins because we fall far short of His glory. We thank God for what He has done for us and others – we express our gratitude to Him for all of His blessings. We make requests of God supplications – for ourselves and others. All of these elements don’t have to be present every time we pray, but they provide us with a helpful outline and summary.

Why should we pray, especially if God, being omniscient, knows everything? The best reason is that God commands us to pray – “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) – and we need to obey His commands. The Lord wants us to come to Him in prayer – we’re not just commanded but also invited to come into His presence. Prayer is also good for us because we grow in our dependence upon Him, especially when we make requests.

God answers every prayer. That may seem startling, but it’s true! It’s just not true in the way we normally think. God answers some prayers with a “yes.” He answers others with a “no,” and still others by saying “wait.”He answers each and every prayer, just not the way we want Him to.

The purpose of prayer is not to bend God’s will to ours – to try to “twist His arm” and get Him to do what we want – rather to conform our will to His. Ultimately prayer is for the glory of God and God alone.

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