Active Waiting with Prayer

Active Waiting with Prayer

Active Waiting with Prayer.

“They who patiently hope in the Lord by weaving together aspects of their lives with Him, will find their strength renewed. Trusting in the Lord, they will be able to lift off and soar like the eagles. When they are running their race, they will never get winded or weary; when they are walking through life, they will never become tired or give up.”  (Isaiah 40:31).

WAIT: qavah,” a common Hebrew term in Scripture for “wait,” which has a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. We get a fuller understanding of ‘qavah” and what it means to “wait” in the biblical sense, when we combine the literal with the figurative:

Literal Meaning of qavah: the process of weaving together separate strands into one; braiding together what is needed for wholeness; binding together by twisting and entwining tightly. Examples of this root word for wait would be braiding hair, twining rope, twisting strands together for a cord. To wait in this sense is not passive, but active; not a waste of time, but a useful time; not something to avoid at all costs but instead to redeem as fully as possible; not the time for seeking distractions from potential boredom, but a time to recognize it as an opportunity.

Figurative Meaning of qavah: to actively hope with patience; to maintain a persistent faith; to peacefully trust in God; to be content in the midst of delay; to live in eager anticipation; to engage in the spiritual activity of listening for/to God; to alertly watch for God in the midst of uncertainty; to look for God’s guidance and presence; to have a faithful expectation of what has been promised by God; to prepare oneself for whatever comes next; to “collect oneself,” to actively “get it together.”

The Purposes of Waiting: to gain and renew strength; to learn dependence on God; to flesh out one’s submission to God; to grow spiritually; to make progress in spiritual discipline; to gain wisdom and understanding; to keep from making rash or unwise decisions; to cooperate with God in His transformation of us; to continue securing one’s intimate union with God; to grow in patience and hopefulness.

“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

An Antidote to Instant Gratification: Do whatever it takes to learn the biblical art of waiting. Do your part in the active version of waiting that involves the process of braiding together within you what you need to survive as you patiently wait and eagerly expect God’s best. Yes, three strands braided together is strong, which makes four strands even stronger! So, with each of us being a strand, let us bind together with some of these vital threesomes during our time of trustful waiting, of practicing contentment in the midst of delay or difficulty. In the durable oneness produced in our braiding, we will remember the old meaning of integrity: when something is produced that is put together so effectively that it will accomplish its purpose. If a bridge has integrity, it has all its parts integrated in a way that achieves it purpose. When we braid together what is crucial for our lives, then we will have integrity, soundness, coherence, usefulness. While we are waiting with eager anticipation, it is important to make an unbreakable rope that will endure for eternity. The spiritual skill of waiting includes the process of weaving together threesomes like the following into our lives. When we are sitting in the waiting room, we will be fortified to wait biblically as the one strand of our life become increasingly entwined with these three strands:

While-U-Wait = Pray, braiding together our own strand with these three strands: Praise, Intercession and Requests for Personal Needs.

Prayer in the Hebrew Bible. “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of Grace and Prayer; then they will look on me who they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem.”  (Zechariah 2:10). This beautiful verse from Zechariah travels in time and space as it foretells Pentecost and then Jesus on the Cross. Could there be a better description of the grief felt by those believers watching the horrific crucifixion of Jesus, their friend and Savior? Indeed, the Lord was literally pierced (John 19:34), and the witnesses were crushed with grief, just as described in this passage. What an amazing promise by our Lord! He has promised that He would pour out on us the Spirit of Grace and the Spirit of Prayer! When we accept and follow Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit will include these two sister blessings… Grace and Prayer. These are two kindred qualities that are related and serve to reinforce each other in our lives as the Spirit dwells in us and we live into Him.

The Spirit of Grace. The Hebrew word here is “chen,” and it means undeserved favor, unmerited love, grace, being accepted through the sheer mercy and lovingkindness of our God. But also implied in chen is protection of life and the restoration of our brokenness. So, grace here in Zechariah can be described as our protection and restoration by means of God’s grace and favor being accepted by us, unearned and freely offered by Him. The Spirit we receive from God is intended to protect our lives, restore them in His love, and wake us up to realize what depths of grace is being offered to us. The Spirit of Grace opens up our eyes to acknowledge God’s gracious favor upon us. And of course, God’s grace doesn’t stop there, squandered by us in our private faith. The Spirit of Grace also empowers us to demonstrate His grace to others. We receive the Spirit of Grace in super abundance, and we in turn live into that Grace in such a way as to multiply it outward, as we make a lifestyle of lavishly offering God’s grace to everyone we meet.

The Spirit of Prayer. Isn’t it wonderful that the Hebrew word for prayer here in Zechariah has the root word for grace tucked into the middle of it? That’s right, chen has a root chanan, which is hidden away ready to be discovered in “wetahanunim,” the word for earnest prayer, intense supplication, to plead for grace. So the effect of the Spirit of Grace being poured onto us is that we are then strengthened to pray earnestly for more of the favor we have already received, more grace for us and for others through us! And Jude says much the same thing… “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Spirit.” (verse 20). Remember that praying “in” the Spirit means to pray by means of, with the help of, in spiritual connection to. So praying in the Spirit could be done by praying Scripture, praying in line with God’s will and character, praying for that which is consistent with gospel values, praying in intercession for others, and living our lives prayerfully in the power of the Spirit. To pray in the Spirit is to receive His Spirit of Prayer in such a way as to pray according to the Spirit’s leading.

Prayer in the New Testament.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”  (Ephesians 6:10-20).

“Proseuche” (the Greek word for “pray” in Ephesians 6:18); the first part of the word, “pros,” means moving toward, a sense of closeness; it is the word used to describe the intimate relationship that exists between members of the Godhead; the sense is to be face-to-face, extremely close; the second part of the word for pray is ”euche,” which is the Greek term for prayer, a  vow, a promise. So the two terms together translate to the prayer that brings us face-to-face with God, into very close contact with the Godhead. The word implies that when we pray we are immediately in communion with God. The Greek term assumes surrender, sacrifice, and thanksgiving on the part of the person praying.

A Weapon. There is little doubt that Paul intended for prayer to be understood as the other offensive weapon in the spiritual warfare he describes in Ephesians 6. When we openly acknowledge our allegiance to God, the unseen enemy is alerted to a new spiritual foe, another soldier to fight in the spiritual realm. Whenever I sense I am being harassed or hounded by forces of spiritual darkness, or am fearful, or I simply want to confirm which side I’m on, I recite the opening words of Isaiah 12: “Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior.” With these triumphant words of faith, I am declaring to the spiritual powers that I trust in the Lord to save me, to remain my refuge and dwelling place. These words remind the spiritual forces that God is my Savior, and that I am sheltering my spirit in Him. When used this way, as a spiritual declaration, it is important to sing or speak the words aloud. When you are merely thinking these words in your head, they will not reach the ears of our foes. Satan and his forces are not omniscient, they can not read minds. Speak or sing these words aloud, and you are declaring to the spiritual world that God is your strength, and there is no point to trying to assault someone hidden in the stronghold of the Lord. With these words, you are telling the evil one that you are not fearful, that God has become your salvation. You are telling the Accuser that he may as well surrender in his battle, since God has already won the victory.

Jude says much the same thing… “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Spirit.” (verse 20). There are many different ways of describing what it means to pray in the Spirit. We can safely assume that the power of our prayer life is rooted in the Holy Spirit, and that the privilege of praying in the Spirit is a gift given to us when we accept and trust in Christ. Here are some of the descriptions of what prayer in the Spirit means: to pray according to the Spirit’s leading; to pray in the power of the Spirit as a weapon in our spiritual  warfare; to pray by means of the Spirit; to pray in submission to the Spirit; to pray in harmony with the Spirit; to pray in cooperation with the will of God and Scripture; to pray under the spiritual influence of the Spirit; to pray under the guidance of the Spirit; to pray as directly inspired by the Holy Spirit; to pray with the assistance of the Spirit.

Inside the Spirit. So when we pray “in the Spirit,” we are praying “inside” the Spirit. We are talking with God inside the Trinity, participating in the life of the Holy Spirit. When we are “in” the Spirit, we are within the sphere of God, in the atmosphere of the Godhead, surrounded by God’s presence. In a sense, the “prayer closet” mentioned by Jesus (Matthew 6:5-8 is the Holy Spirit.  He is our Place of prayer, the sacred space in which to talk to God. When we are praying in the Spirit, we are in our spiritual hiding place, praying with the mind of the Spirit, led by Him, inspired by Him, guided by Him.

Praying the Word. What better way to pray in the Spirit than to pray His inspired Word?  Praying the Scripture is praying into the mind of the Spirit, to pray into His thinking. To pray the Word is to pray in the spirit of the Spirit. To pray the Scripture is to pray according to His established will. To pray the Word is to participate in the “cycle of blessing” described in Isaiah 55… God drenches the earth and mankind with His Word, like He waters the earth, for life and growth that is sure to follow. The new life that springs from God’s Word will result in spiritual fruitfulness. And mankind responds to God’s favor and blessing, and offers back to Him His Word of praise and trust and adoration. We offer back to God the best that mankind has ever said in praise of God, all of which has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is blessed when His Word returns to Him fulfilled and fruitful. God’s Word of love will accomplish its purpose as we pray the Word of love back to Him. Praying His Word puts our thoughts into better expression than our own words, though God wants those too. Praying His Word back to Him completes the love cycle and brings Him joy and satisfaction. Unlike many of us, God loves to be quoted, because He fully knows His words bring us life.

Pray with Praise. “The area of ancient Israel’s greatest creativity, and so what they did best, was the praise of God.” (Ellen Davis, Getting involved with God). Scripture doesn’t define the word “praise,” but it offers plenty of descriptions and numerous praise-words. Praise can be described as an outward expression of gratitude for all that God has done for oneself, for the community, for the world. Praise is a recounting of the many blessings that God has provided in His grace and mercy. Praise is a grateful appreciation of God’s mighty works. Praise is an expression of thanksgiving to the Lord, an acknowledgement of God’s righteous deeds. To praise God is to thank God and celebrate His presence in the world.

In the Hebrew Bible, Praise was an Art Form:  exuberant with raised arms; exultation accompanied by holy dance; spontaneous songs sung during worship; combining a petition with a praise in the same breath; making a joyful noise with a loud shout of celebration; praise with hands lifted up high in the air and arms extended; bowing low in adoration; lifting up one’s whole being to God in praise, including heart, hands, voice, eyes, soul; spin around in joy and praise; jump for joy; to declare praise very loudly like a roaring lion; bless God on bended knee, praising Him humbly while kneeling; to allow silence itself to praise God, blessing Him in reverence without exclamations but with soft murmuring; magnify and glorify God in praise by raving about His greatness and spiritual weight; to invite all of nature to join you in praise and worship; praise with music, celebrating in song with voice and/or stringed instruments; to enjoy a circle dance with other worshipers, as well as the more spontaneous whirling and twirling in the spirit.

Pray with Intercessions. Of all the types of prayer (such as adoration, praise, confession, thanksgiving, on-going conversation, requests, intercession), intercession might be the most confusing and challenging. To intercede is to be brazen enough to approach the King in the throne room, and strong enough to lift someone else up to His line of vision. Only arms of Love, strengthened by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26), are powerful enough to accomplish that feat. Intercession is a powerful aspect of burden-bearing. This critical factor in Christian influence means that you talk to God about people at least as much as you talk to people about God. Intercession is not about a feeling, emotion or sentiment, but instead about resolve and heart-felt mindfulness.

Intercession is an act of obedience (Colossians 4:2 and Philippians 4:6), but it remains a holy mystery. There are times when God seems to track right alongside us and respond with “Yes, Amen!” and the prayer is answered accordingly and sometimes miraculously. Then there are times when it seems like intercession is an exercise of repeatedly banging your head against the door of heaven. And then there are times when a prayer is answered that hadn’t even been voiced yet, as though God has read your mind and your spirit, and followed through before the prayer was uttered. Often, God seems to be in a different universe in terms of the timing of things, which of course He is.

With intercession, one never knows what will happen, and when. God is certainly no soda machine where you put in your dollar prayer and automatically get what you asked for. For some of the time, God seems stubbornly silent and nonresponsive. During those times, one is thankful that God is wiser than us, and knows infinitely more than we do.

But there are those periods of time, after years of interceding for a particular person or situation, when there is nothing to go on but sheer faith. Faith that God is listening, that He really does care, that He wants what is best for the person you are praying for, that He operates on a heavenly timeline. All through Scripture we are told to trust Him and to pray, regardless. So that’s what we’ll do. But there are times of doubt and confusion and dead silence when all you can say is, “Lord, I am going to keep knocking on your door, I am going to continue approaching your throne, whether or not you get sick of me doing so. I’m not giving up.” During those times, intercession is sheer hard work, patiently done in the dark, and it’s a real chore not to let the effort become a distraction to the prayer itself. Intercession is asking for Divine Intervention from a mysterious and inscrutable God, and who knows the mind of God? I may not know the mind of God, but I know His heart. It is mercy. And that is where I will remain.

Angels in the Waiting Room. Regardless of the type of prayer, we do know that we never pray alone, even when in our private prayer closet. Psalm 138:1 mentions that we pray “in the sight of the angels.” Father Patrick Reardon once said that “prayer is always sustained by angelic presence.” Can you picture this? There we are in the waiting room, and we are addressing the King, and lo and behold we are surrounded by angelic cheerleaders, urging us on, applauding our efforts, saying Amen, singing before the throne as we lift up our prayers. Heavenly angels are God’s messengers and ministers, and you can bet that they are ministering to us as we bend our knees in prayer.

To “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess.5:16-17) doesn’t mean we don’t work for our daily bread or take care of our family. To pray unceasingly, to pray always, doesn’t mean a mind-numbing intentional, all-day session of prayer, like the monks in the abbey who are privileged to be called to such a life. Praying always means to develop a life in which you live prayerfully, we get in the habit of using God as our reference point during our day. It is developing a lifestyle that offers up spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving and blessing, of asking for God’s help, and it becomes like breathing, sometimes conscious, other times subconscious. To pray always is to have the willingness to thank God for everything in the course of a day… from successfully going to the bathroom, to having a roof over your head and daily bread, to that thoughtful comment heard from a friend, to a safe car ride doing errands. Consciously keeping God as our reference point during the day becomes like muscle memory, something done spontaneously like a reflex, In this type of prayerful lifestyle, we can learn a lot from our Jewish brethren, who have hundreds of blessings to offer God in the course of a day. Getting into this spiritual habit will help it to become, over time, second nature.

One sure sign that the Holy Spirit is moving is that the Spirit of Grace and the Spirit of Prayer will certainly sweep powerfully through our individual lives and our lives at home and at our church. There will be an acute awareness of our brokenness, for God’s grace and our need for it, and the deep desire to show grace to others. And there will be a wave of the ardent desire to pray for others, for oneself, for the needs of the world. The Spirit of Intercession will roll through our own hearts and to our place of worship and our family life at home. God loves to demonstrate unearned favor on us, and He loves when we pray in the Spirit to Him. Building each other up in the most holy faith, then let us help each other as we flesh out the Spirit of Grace and the Spirit of Prayer in our lives together.

We worship You for Your holiness. We give You thanks for Your goodness. We praise You for Your glory! Amen.