“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.”
“Wait for the Lord”. This is a phrase that is repeated many times throughout the Bible – and especially in the Psalms. Attached to it are often promises of God’s strength and help; displays of His power on our behalf. But…what exactly does it mean to “wait for the Lord”? Our culture has become consumed with the need to have instant gratification – everything we want or need at our fingertips the very second that we need it. We don’t want to have to wait for anything – even 2-day shipping on something we’re excited about seems like an eternity. The concept of having to wait is something we’ve almost entirely lost, and not only have we lost all patience, but when we discover that we have to wait for something, our minds almost always see it as a punishment and/or an annoyance.
This particular passage of scripture is one that is especially helpful in teaching us what it means to wait for the Lord.
“I wait for the Lord”
Wait. When we go to pray, it can be our tendency to come with our “lists” and to plow through them as fast as possible so that we can get on to the rest of the things we want to do. But this is not a relationship with God! This is a religious exercise that’s no more effective than bowing towards Mecca five times a day. The way to actually have a real relationship with Jesus is to sit with Him. To pray and wait on Him until you know He is there with you. Not stopping until you know that He has heard…not giving up until you know you have actually spent time sitting with Jesus. It can be hard; you may get antsy, you may have plans for the day trying to fill your mind – things you need to get done – but don’t let those things win over your thoughts. The devil will try to throw all kinds of these things at you because he knows that it is only when we actually spend time in the Lord’s presence that our lives are changed, and that we can hear God speaking. When we do all the talking as fast as we can, and then move on to the rest of our “to-do list”, we aren’t giving God much of a chance to speak to our hearts…and we wonder why our lives are still the same, why our sins are still master over us, and why we don’t know if God ever speaks to us. It’s because we never give Him a chance. We want a drive-through meeting with God – quick and easy; something that won’t take up too much of our time, and yet, will still get us everything we want. But God wants an actual friendship with us…and He has made it to take real effort and time…just like any other friendship. When we do take the time to pray and to keep praying and waiting on Him until we KNOW we are with Him in His throne room, it is then that He fills us with the joy and peace that we are so longing for, and the victory over our sinful nature, and the answers to our prayers.
“and in His word I hope”
One powerful tool of prayer is actually God’s Word – the Bible! Many times we can think of it as something separate from praying or “extra”…but God has made it to be used, among other things, as a tool to help us to enter into His presence and to hear His voice. It can be used to direct our prayers, and God will also often use it to speak to us and to give us the answers and direction we need for our daily lives. The Bible is full of verses that you can use to shape your own prayers, and promises that you can take hold of in your prayers. God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword”, and it seems that prayers that stem from His Word are especially effective because, when you pray scripture, it is showing God that you actually believe that what He has said is true; “And without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) When you pray scripture, it is also comforting to know that it doesn’t have any of your own selfishness mixed into it (unless taken horribly out of context for personal gain), as we find that our prayers can sometimes run into this problem. (“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6) You can trust God’s Word, and that He will keep all of His promises. Hold fast to His Word – it will never let you down. Expect Him to fulfill it. Pray scriptures. And when God shows you scriptures that speak to your heart and the situations you are in…you can hold onto them with great hope and expectancy.
“my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning” Imagine living back in the days when there were castles and knights and fair maidens. Now, if the king of a city was smart, he would appoint watchmen to stand guard all day and all night all over the walls of the city (because back in those days, when there were continually wars over who would get to rule over cities and lands, they usually had very big walls all around the cities to make it harder for the enemy armies to come in). They had to always be watching for any sign of armies being gathered to fight against their cities. It is easier to sneak up on someone at night, so many times battles would begin at night, and that is why the cities had watchmen taking shifts watching for trouble day after day – and even at night. Usually if you were on the night shift you might keep watch until the sun rose, and then another watchman would come and take your place so you could get some sleep. Now just imagine you were that watchman whose job it was to keep watch all night. It would be very dark, and probably cold. You wouldn’t be able to see much of anything, but your eyes would be continually straining to try to see any kind of movement anywhere nearby. Hour after hour you would be staring into the darkness, hand on your bow, trying desperately to stay awake, because the safety of the city would be compromised if you fell asleep for even a minute. And just imagine your eager expectancy as the last hour of your watch was drawing to a close, eyes sore and drooping after such a long night, waiting for the first rays of sun to begin peeking over the hills, knowing that not long after, you would be relieved from your shift on the cold, hard wall, and be free to go home to rest. You would be counting down the minutes…waiting for the sun to shine and the shroud of darkness to be swept away. Rejoicing to have made it through another night safely, without incident. It is this kind of eagerness and expectancy that we are to have as we go to pray. When we pray, it should be a joyful thing to us to spend time with the Lord…and to wait for Him to come and sit with us. Knowing that He will lift the burdens off of our shoulders and fill us with the peace that we are longing for. Waiting for His presence like the earth as it eagerly thirsts for the spring rain – then bursting forth in all of its beauty and fragrance. “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3