Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD Psalm 27:14 KJV
One of the most challenging and perplexing aspects of prayer is the period of time between the request and the answer. That phase is commonly referred to as waiting on the Lord. When prayers are answered quickly, the waiting period is brief and buoyed by an expectant satisfaction and relief in having made the request. But when the answer lingers and the waiting period begins to slowly drag on, waves of doubt and impatience gather strength as they buffet the heart of the pray-er. It could be said that waiting on the Lord is the test between the request and God’s best.
This critical time of waiting on the Lord is often characterized by confusion and weariness. And yet it is in this waiting process, which God purposely allows, that prayer does its deepest, most beneficial work in the heart of the pray-er. As much as we would like to avoid it, it is the necessary path God provides to purify our desires and prepare us to move from promise to provision.
It is understandable therefore that there are many scriptures extolling the virtues of waiting on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord and hoping in the Lord are frequently linked and sometimes even used interchangeably. “We wait in hope for the Lord,” the psalmist tells us “he is our help and our shield.” (Psalm 33:20 NIV) “Praise awaits you, our God.” (Psalm 65:1 NIV) And “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5 NIV)
In the waiting process, hope in God’s character and His word is like the oxygen that keeps us breathing words of praise while we wait for God to answer. We can see therefore how critical it is, in waiting for God to answer our prayers, to maintain a lifeline of hope by reminding ourselves of God’s past faithfulness and many promises.
Waiting on the Lord is also frequently associated with building spiritual strength and courage. It might be likened to a free membership at a spiritual health club. To derive benefit, one must enroll and take advantage of all the training and equipment available there to build spiritual muscle and endurance. “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14 NIV) And then “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 ESV) What a promise! “Physical training is good, but training for godliness (by waiting on the Lord) is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT)
Waiting on the Lord however is costly to our flesh. It is the price we pay for God’s glory to be revealed in and through our lives. It is death to self on the installment plan. With each passing day we must be willing to die to our demands and our timetables. For the most part there are no easy ways out or quick fixes. Such expectations are more characteristic of the world’s ways than God’s ways. God expectations and timetables are higher than man’s. His concern is more for the inner work of the heart than the outworking of our circumstances.
Waiting exercises our heart to seek Him more earnestly and depend upon Him more desperately. It drives us to our knees and to depths of prayer and an intimacy of relationship with God hitherto unexperienced. Sun kissed days and fair blue skies do not extract from His creation heart cries directed toward heaven like storm driven days and dark cloudy skies.
Waiting transforms us by purifying our motives and desires to align us with God’s will for our lives. Like the refining of gold by fire, waiting on the Lord has a way of burning away the dross of fleshly ambition. It transforms us from babes demanding our own way to mature sons and daughters crying out for God’s way. It is a primary means that God uses to conform us to the image of His Son. Like the request of the returning prodigal, our appeal to the Father changes from “give me” to “make me.” (Luke 15:12, 19)
Consequently, waiting on the Lord is meant to strategically position us to be the kind of people that God can freely pour forth His blessings upon. Our job is not to figure it all out, provide for ourselves or twist God’s arm. Nor dare we throw up our hands, do nothing and abandon our hope that an answer will come.
In my next blog post I will share some practical things we can and should do while we are waiting on the Lord in order to maximize its benefits.
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