Waiting as Prayer

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 40:1

We live in a world of instant everything. We value speed. This is true not only in our culture at large, but in our spirituality. When we pray, we want to see results. And we want to see them now. Our need for quick results is especially urgent when we, or someone we love, is in distress. If we cry out to God in a time of distress and the distress continues or worsens, we are likely to question ourselves and to question God. We may wonder if we have done something wrong because our prayers are not being answered. We may wonder if God has abandoned us or if God cares about us.

Sometimes prayer is about waiting. Sometimes prayer is the practice of waiting patiently for God. To wait patiently for God is to trust in God’s unfailing love for us. To wait patiently is to pray with hope that we are not abandoned or forgotten by God.

This is not an easy kind of prayer to practice. Most of us will need to pray for gifts of trust and hope as we wait for God. And even these gifts may be slow in coming.

If, however, we ask for the grace to practice the prayer of waiting we will find something changing in us. We will find that we are waiting not only for relief from our distressing situation but waiting for God’s presence to be made known.

The prayer of waiting draws us into a place of stillness and quietness before God where we open our heart to listen and receive the good gifts of guidance, wisdom and blessing. Even more, the prayer of waiting is a prayer of following our heart’s deepest cry, the cry for God to come to us, to be with us. Sometimes in such sacred but difficult moments of prayer God does remarkable things in us:

Something happens to us in this kind of waiting. We are brought to attention. Our hearts and minds and spirits focus on what matters most, on what is most real, on our deepest longings for God….As we wait and watch in anticipation of the One-who-is-with-us to be revealed, a great work takes place within. A deeper container is carved in our souls–a container that will be able to receive more of God’s life, more of God’s love and grace. (Juanita Ryan, Keep Breathing. CreateSpace, 2009. pg. 102)

God is with us in our distress, in our sorrows, in our times of need. But sometimes we are invited to wait to see the evidence of God’s loving activity in our lives. Sometimes we are invited into the prayer of waiting, so our truest longing can emerge and our hearts can be made ready to receive all that God has for us.

When we wait with hope it is like sitting in the dark of night before the first rays of dawn have appeared. We know the dawn will come, but we cannot hurry it. We can watch and wait with hope to receive the first lights with joy.

I wait.
I wait for you to answer.
I wait for the first light of dawn.
I wait for you.
I wait for you.
I wait for you.
I wait.
My waiting is my prayer.
In the pain of the waiting I feel my longing for you.
I long for you to be here.
I wait for your arrival, you who has always been here.
In the waiting I know a larger space in my soul is being excavated.
I can feel the growing emptiness.
But I know that it will be filled
with your gracious, loving presence.
Make me ready to receive you.
I wait.

Prayer suggestion:

What cry of your heart are you waiting for God to answer?
Picture yourself in an open space (a mountain meadow, the beach, the desert). It is a dark night. But you are awake, sitting in prayer, waiting patiently for the first rays of dawn, waiting for God to respond to the cry of your heart. Let your waiting be your prayer.

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