In a Bible Study on prayer the group that I lead, at Christ Church in Los Angeles, had a discussion on waiting on God was one of the things we must learn to do when we pray and then have to wait for the answer.
Here are the notes from part of our study
We are really not in control of the world God is. We are not really in control of our futures, God is. The only response to our problems or our condition is to "be still" and turn them over to God.
The Latin imperative for “be still” is to vacate (from which we get the word vacation), so God is inviting us to take a break and allow him to be God in our daily lives. In addition the word translated “know” refers not only to intellectual knowledge but also to knowing God through worship and obedience. In your daily life, what might it look like to actually put into practice these definitions of stillness and knowledge.
Most of us don’t find it easy to be still and wait on God.” We keep taking on responsibilities and trying to accomplish more and more in our strength. Yet many faithful followers of God who have gone before us have learned to live life with a keen awareness of God’s perspective and our human frailty.
We can learn some to the benefits of waiting on God from these scriptures.
Psalm 37:4-7 (NKJV)4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday.7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Matthew 6:31-32 (NKJV)31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Isaiah 30:18 (NKJV)18 Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
2 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV)8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Psalm 145:8-13 (NKJV)8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.10 All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, And Your saints shall bless You.11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power,12 To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom.13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Isaiah 40:31 NKJV But those who wait on 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.
The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.”, to let go, surrender.
To be still means to stop frantic activity. The meaning would be best understood to say “cause yourself to become restrained or to let go”. For Christians being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help. In other words, we need to come to a place where we are willing to submit ourselves to God and acknowledge that He is in sovereign control.
Exodus 14:13 (NKJV)13 And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.
This command—“be still”—forces us to realize that we are finite, and that God is infinite, that He’s in control, He’s sovereign over our lives, He’s Lord of heaven and earth.
Romans 14:11 (NKJV) For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God."
Being still doesn’t mean that there won't be trouble. It is remembering that He promised to never leave or forsake us.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake
In his book You’ll Get Through This. Max Lucado uses the experience of sitting in a waiting room waiting to see your doctor, to describe how we often feel when we have to wait even when it’s for our benefit. To get a copy of the book click on the book title, this LINK, or the ad at the end of this post.
So here I sit in the waiting room. The receptionist took my name, recorded my insurance data, and gestured to a chair. “Please have a seat. We will call you when the doctor is ready.” I look around. A mother holds a sleeping baby. A fellow dressed in a suit thumbs through Time magazine. A woman with a newspaper looks at her watch, sighs, and continues the task of the hour: waiting.
The waiting room. Not the examination room. That’s down the hall. Not the consultation room. That’s on the other side of the wall. Not the treatment room. Exams, consultations, and treatments all come later.
The task at hand is the name of the room: the waiting room. We in the waiting room understand our assignment: to wait. We don’t treat each other. I don’t ask the nurse for a stethoscope or blood pressure cuff. I don’t pull up a chair next to the woman with the newspaper and say, “Tell me what prescriptions you are taking.” That’s the job of the nurse. My job is to wait. So I do.
Can’t say that I like it. Time moves like an Alaskan glacier. The clock ticks every five minutes, not every second. Someone pressed the pause button. Life in slo-mo. We don’t like to wait. We are the giddyup generation. We weave through traffic, looking for the faster lane. We frown at the person who takes eleven items into the ten-item express checkout. We drum our fingers while the song downloads or the microwave heats our coffee. “Come on, come on.” We want six-pack abs in ten minutes and minute rice in thirty seconds. We don’t like to wait. Not on the doctor, the traffic, or the pizza.
Not on God?
Take a moment and look around you. Do you realize where we sit? This planet is God’s waiting room.
The young couple in the corner? Waiting to get pregnant. The fellow with the briefcase? He has résumés all over the country, waiting on work. The elderly woman with the cane? A widow. Been waiting a year for one tearless day. Waiting. Waiting on God to give, help, heal. Waiting on God to come. We indwell the land betwixt prayer offered and prayer answered. The land of waiting.
If anyone knew the furniture of God’s waiting room, Joseph did. One problem with reading his story is its brevity. We can read the Genesis account from start to finish in less than an hour, which gives the impression that all these challenges took place before breakfast one morning. We’d be wiser to pace our reading over a couple of decades.
Take Genesis 37 into a dry cistern, and sit there for a couple of hours while the sun beats down. Recite the first verse of Genesis 39 over and over for a couple of months:
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.
Joseph needed at least this much time to walk the 750 miles from Dothan to Thebes.
Then there was the day or days or weeks on the auction block. Add to that probably a decade in Potiphar’s house, supervising the servants, doing his master’s bidding, learning Egyptian. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. Time moves slowly in a foreign land.
And time stands still in a prison.
Joseph had asked the butler to put in a good word for him.
Remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house... I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon. — Genesis 40:14–15
We can almost hear the butler reply, “Certainly, I will mention you to Pharaoh. First chance I get. You’ll be hearing from me.” Joseph hurried back to his cell and collected his belongings. He wanted to be ready when the call came. A day passed. Then two. Then a week... a month. Six months. No word. As it turned out, Pharaoh’s cup-bearer...
promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought. — Genesis 40:23 NLT
On the page of your Bible, the uninked space between that verse and the next is scarcely wider than a hair ribbon. It takes your eyes only a split second to see it. Yet it took Joseph two years to experience it. Genesis 41 starts like this:
Two years passed and Pharaoh had a dream. — Genesis 41:1 MSG
Two years! Twenty-four months of silence. One hundred and four weeks of waiting. Seven hundred and thirty days of wondering. Two thousand one hundred and ninety meals alone. Seventeen thousand five hundred and twenty hours of listening for God yet hearing nothing but silence.
Plenty of time to grow bitter, cynical, angry. Folks have given up on God for lesser reasons in shorter times.
Not Joseph. On a day that began like any other, he heard a stirring at the dungeon entrance. Loud, impatient voices demanded, “We are here for the Hebrew! Pharaoh wants the Hebrew!” Joseph looked up from his corner to see the prison master, white-faced and stammering. “Get up! Hurry, get up!” Two guards from the court were on his heels. Joseph remembered them from his days in Potiphar’s service. They took him by the elbows and marched him out of the hole. He squinted at the brilliant sunlight. They walked him across a courtyard into a room. Attendants flocked around him. They removed his soiled clothing, washed his body, and shaved his beard. They dressed him in a white robe and new sandals. The guards reappeared and walked him into the throne room.
And so it was that Joseph and Pharaoh looked into each other’s eyes for the first time.
The king hadn’t slept well the night before. Dreams troubled his rest. He heard of Joseph’s skill. “They say you can interpret dreams. My counselors are mute as stones. Can you help me?”
Joseph’s last two encounters hadn’t ended so well. Mrs. Potiphar lied about him. The butler forgot about him. In both cases Joseph had mentioned the name of God. Perhaps he should hedge his bets and keep his faith under wraps.
Not I, but God. God will set Pharaoh’s mind at ease. — Genesis 41:16 MSG
Joseph emerged from his prison cell bragging on God. Jail time didn’t devastate his faith; it deepened it.
And you? You aren’t in prison, but you may be infertile or inactive or in limbo or in between jobs or in search of health, help, a house, or a spouse. Are you in God’s waiting room? If so, here is what you need to know:
while you wait, God works.
My Father is always at His work, Jesus said. — John 5:17 NIV
God never twiddles His thumbs. He never stops. He takes no vacations. He rested on the seventh day of creation but got back to work on the eighth and hasn’t stopped since. Just because you are idle, don’t assume God is.
Joseph’s story appeared to stall out in chapter 40. Our hero was in shackles. The train was off the tracks. History was in a holding pattern. But while Joseph was waiting, God was working. He assembled the characters. God placed the butler in Joseph’s care. He stirred the sleep of the king with odd dreams. He confused Pharaoh’s counselors. And at just the right time, God called Joseph to duty.
He’s working for you as well. “Be still, and know that I am God”1 reads the sign on God’s waiting room wall. You can be glad because God is good. You can be still because He is active. You can rest because He is busy.
What if you give up? Lose faith? Walk away? Don’t. For Heaven’s sake, don’t. All of Heaven is warring on your behalf. Above and around you at this very instant, God’s messengers are at work.
Those who wait on 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
Fresh strength. Renewed vigor. Legs that don’t grow weary. Delight yourself in God, and He will bring rest to your soul.
You’ll get through this waiting room season just fine. Pay careful note, and you will detect the most wonderful surprise. The doctor will step out of his office and take the seat next to yours. “Just thought I’d keep you company while you are waiting.” Not every physician will do that, but yours will. After all, He is the Great Physician.
Excerpted with permission from You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.