Public Speaking 101

I don’t know that I’d ever heard the song before that particular morning. Leastwise, I hadn’t REALLY heard it, where it penetrated not only my thoughts but my soul and spirit.

I was getting ready to speak before a large group of women.


Yes, definitely. While I do it often, standing in front of crowds is not something I do easily.

My 8th grade English teacher was merciless in grading speeches: “Talk louder.” Then, “You have to look UP!” Finally, “Stop counting the bricks at the back of the wall; you have to look AT your audience.”

I don’t think she thought I’d ever get it. Or at least wouldn’t admit I could. My final one of the year, I hit the nail on the head. I spoke up. I looked up. I looked at my audience (or at least at their foreheads). And I got a standing ovation from the class. But when it came time to getting the grade, she somehow lost my speech.

I wonder what she’d say today if she realized how often I speak now.

But, truthfully, my nervousness on this particular morning wasn’t from Mrs. Brown’s repetition in my head. I wasn’t worried about being the most polished speaker.

Just the opposite.

Did I want to trip going up to the stage, drop all my notes on the floor, suddenly have my tongue go numb, or have all my jokes fall flat?

Of course not.

But I knew if I did this speech in my power, perfectly presented or not, it’d be a flop! Through Christ? He would bring about what He wanted.

I didn’t want the women to go home empty.

And so I prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed.

That morning, I woke long before I had to and paced the hall, the house, my room. Reading my Bible, reading my talk, and praying some more. “Lord, please be in my words. Don’t let them see me. Don’t let them hear me. Don’t let me do or say anything that would distract them from Your message. Let them see and hear You!”

And then my radio alarm clock clicked on.

The song that was playing?

J.J. Weeks’ Let Them See You in Me.

I dropped on the edge of my bed and let the words and the prayer wash over me and up to Christ. “Thank You, Lord,” and “Yes, Lord, please!” and “Amen!”

It was an incredible morning. I will not presume to list how the Lord used what I spoke that day. Many women have told me it touched them. That they heard and saw the Lord in it. That they were brought closer to Him. But those stories are for them to share, glorifying Him, not me. If you’d like to read or hear the message for yourself, feel free to check out the post “Chosen and Redeemed.”

But for two weeks after, every time I heard Weeks’ song—and it suddenly seemed to come on a lot—I prayed again that the Lord would continue to speak to those women. That it wouldn’t end as a one-day retreat or a mountaintop experience—and then a drop back into daily valleys.

That whether they remembered my message at all, they would be called to Him.

Then, two and a half weeks later, I was speaking again.

This time it was in front of a different, smaller group of women in a much more decided demographic. When they originally called me, they asked that I share the same message from a few weeks before. I clarified that fact with several people, wondering if it was the right message for the group. They assured me it was.

I prayed about it and didn’t get any feeling different.

The morning came, and I woke as I had a few weeks earlier, praying and singing Weeks’ lyrics. My nerves were as taut as before, and in reading my Bible and going over my talk, I prayed for that song to come on the radio again.

It didn’t.

Not while I was getting dressed for the day. Not while I was driving the kids to school. Not while driving the forty minutes to the meeting where I would be speaking.

Not when I realized I’d been given the wrong address to the building and drove around the city lost. Not when I finally arrived in the parking lot and took a moment to text a friend, asking her to pray.

And not before I stepped out of the car, shut the door, and realized my keys were now locked in the car.

Nothing was going right!

But I sang those words to myself again: this wasn’t about me!

And I continued to pray that, no matter how things went or continued to go that morning, the Lord would be in it. That He would speak to the women, that His word would not return void, and that even if I completely bombed my speaking—tripped up the stage, dropped all my notes, had my tongue go numb and my jokes fall flat—they would hear Him! Christ! through me.

Unfortunately, as smoothly as everything went two weeks before? It all fell apart this second time.

I felt awkward, my words wooden, the message seemingly way over their heads. The women weren’t yawning, but it sure felt like it. And there was so much commotion going on behind the scenes, I kept getting distracted.

At the end, no one came to talk to me.

Finally, I smiled goodbyes, I picked up my extra car keys that my sweet husband had dropped off, and I stumbled out to my car, trying to hide my tears.

“God, why did I share that message? Why didn’t I make something new? Why didn’t You tell me to do something different? That was a complete flop!”

I turned on the ignition, and the radio started playing a song.

You guessed it.

JJ Weeks’ Let Them See You in Me.”

And it hit me.

Even amid all my praying for Him to be the one seen, I was still evaluating His work by how people reacted to me. To the message that I spoke.

But this time, it was very clear. If they heard Him, it wouldn’t be about me at all.

It would be all Him!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting I could just throw something together and go up there and do a half-baked job. I had prayed and studied and prepared.

And the first time, He used it all to glorify Him. Hearing the song just beforehand helped me remember that.

But the second time, there was much out of my control. I would have liked the reminder beforehand. But I NEEDED it AFTER….
The truth heard as an exclamation point.

It was proof. It REALLY WASN’T about my giving a slick presentation. Or His making sure it all ran smoothly.

It was about Him. Talking to them. In whatever way He chose.

So I went home that day, singing the song, not knowing what He was doing, but comforted knowing it was in His hands.

And there I had to leave it. For almost a year.

Whenever I heard the song, I prayed for the women. Prayed that they heard Him. That somehow in the midst of the commotion and the woodenness and the seemingly ill-chosen message, Christ had met them where they were. Despite the fact that I would never know.

But Christ didn’t leave it there!

Ten months later, I received an email. Telling me the amazing things God had done through that morning. That women still spoke of the day and how it affected them. That they were so thankful for that message.

And I knew it had NOTHING to do with me.

Because while He was speaking to them in His own time and His own way—through a song, He spoke to me!

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3 thoughts on “Public Speaking 101”

  1. Laura Moore

    Beautiful song! But sometimes it truly is hard to pray those words and mean it. Even if we really do desire people to see the Lord, not us. We are always getting in the way somehow–at least I am. And we often measure our effectiveness by the compliments. Thanks for sharing both episodes. God really does use us in our weakness!

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