I am not good at waiting. Checkout lines at the supermarket, for instance. I’m constantly comparing my progress with the person who arrived to pay at the same time as me, but picked a different line. If he or she begins loading groceries onto the belt before me then I’m mumbling under my breath about my mistake.
Then there is a visit to the doctor. I check in for my appointment and take a seat in the waiting room — even the name has implications! I flick through a magazine or scroll through news stories on my phone, but my concentration wanes as the minutes go by. It feels like my blood pressure ticks up in unison with the movement of the hands on the wall clock, and as my mind finds reasons for why the doctor is running behind. Has another patient taken too much time explaining his or her ailment? Is the doctor dealing with an emergency? And worse, have I been forgotten or skipped over. Maybe the receptionist failed to check me in correctly on the computer.
When we’re waiting for our prayers to be answered, we can behave like we’re in a doctor’s waiting room. We may be patient to begin with, but then impatience sets in. We ask God “why ” and “when.” The longer the wait, the harder it becomes. We don’t rest. We can’t relax. “If God answers my prayer, then everything will be okay,” we think.
Or maybe, like being in the checkout line, we compare our “wait” answer to that of a friend’s “yes” answer and we begin to question ourselves and God.
There should be a big difference between our behavior in God’s waiting room and our conduct in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or the checkout line. And, there’s a lot we can learn from experience and scripture about how to react while we are waiting for God’s response to a prayer.
Just the other morning I reflected on a prayer finally answered after years of waiting and from it, I learned some important lessons. I could have been more positive in the waiting. I should have embraced the situation I was in rather than wishing it would change. I could have rested and even found joy in the waiting, if I’d trusted God’s timing. Then the words of Psalm 23 came to mind: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul...These words sound like they have been written by someone in the waiting room. Granted it’s easy in hindsight to realize these truths. But, we can hold onto them going forward.
When we look in the Bible, we find similar lessons and others that can be applied to God’s answer of ‘wait”:
1. Admit you’re struggling — not just to your friends, but to God, too.
It’s okay to complain: I’m hurting, Lord—will you forget me forever? How much longer, Lord? Will you look the other way when I’m in need? (Psalm 13:1 TPT)
And when the weight of the wait sits heavily on your heart, it’s okay to express: How much longer must I cling to this constant grief? I’ve endured this shaking of my soul. Followed by, Look on me and answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 13:2-3) TPT
2. Look at your surroundings
The waiting room of prayer is not some sterile office lined with chairs and thumbed-through magazines. God’s waiting room is a comfortable, richly prepared home in which you have shelter and where you can feast on his faithfulness and drink from a cup that overflows with blessings (see Psalm 23:5-6).
Use the following words to help you:
Here’s the one thing I crave from God,Psalm 27:4 TPT
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house,
finding the sweet loveliness of his face,
filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to him
that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.
Write down blessings you receive for each day you wait.
3. Change your focus
Follow these instructions taken from the Psalm 37:3-4 (TPT):
- Fix your heart on the promises of God.
- Trust in the Lord
- Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life.
And then, says the Psalm, he will give you the desires of your heart.
We may not like where we’re at, but if we choose to stress less in the waiting, we will see God’s goodness.
4. Say these prayers:
These words are paraphrased from Psalms 37 and 27 (TPT) respectively:
God, I give you the right to direct my life, as I trust you along the way I’ll find you pulled it off perfectly! I will quiet my heart in your presence and pray; I will keep hope alive as I long for you to come through for me. Amen.
Lord God, Here’s what I’m learning through it all: I will not give up; I will not be impatient; I will be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, I will keep on waiting—for you will never disappoint me! Amen.
What prayer are you waiting for God to answer? And what have you learned in the waiting?