Friday, November 24, 2006


Last night we met with some friends, and I posed the (pre-Advent) questions, “What is it that you are waiting on God for?”…“And, how do you wait?”

I find having to wait deeply frustrating. In my brokenness, I would rather be a human doing than a human being. I hate being put on hold on the phone; hate standing in a long queue at the bank or in a shop; hate sitting in a car that isn’t moving, surrounded, for as far as the eye can see, by other cars that are going nowhere, on the motorway…

So my question “How do you wait?” wasn’t a rhetorical one. Here’s some of the collective wisdom that came out of our discussion:

God would appear to value waiting:
(Abraham had to wait for a son; Joseph had to wait in prison, before eventually becoming first minister of Egypt and saving the peoples of that empire from famine; Moses had to wait in the desert before finally leading his people out of captivity from Egypt; then the Israelites had to wait a generation before entering the promised land; David had to wait thirteen years in caves in the wilderness, between being anointed king and being crowned king; his descendents had to wait seventy years in exile in Babylon; everyone had to wait 600 years between Isaiah prophesying concerning the coming of Jesus, and it actually taking place; Jesus had to wait to begin his ministry – “My time has not yet come”…“The time has come!”; Paul had to wait fourteen years in the wilderness before being accepted by the community of Christians; the martyrs beneath God’s throne in heaven wait…Yes; God would appear to value waiting…)

Sometimes we have to wait for as long as it takes for God to work a change in us, before we are ready for the thing we wait for to happen…
(Though sometimes there are also external factors that God is also working on.)

Those of us who tend towards activism (most of the people in the room, as it happens; though one finds the waiting as satisfying as the point where waiting ends) would love to know what that thing in us that needs to change is – so that we can try to do something about it!

…for that very reason, God doesn’t always let us know what it is that needs to change in us – what he is up to ‘behind the scenes’ – until after the event (if at all).



  1. good.
    i also hate to wait and and am very impatient.
    right now i'm waiting for God to teach me to pray. i am hearing a still, small voice, but when i turn toward it, it (seemingly) has moved on.

    what is the role of waiting when what we are waiting on is something that is impossible to have arrived at? like perfect prayer.

  2. Why 'perfect' prayer? And why 'impossible to have arrived at'?

    Jesus says, "Be perfect, therefore,as your heavenly Father is perfect" in the context of loving our enemies; and describes the way to "be sons [or daughters] of your Father in heaven" as by loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

    So I'm guessing that for me, perfect prayer would be to pray for your President and my Prime Minister, even though I hate the actions they have taken in the world in the name of my heavenly Father...Loving them may be harder - though I don't think it is impossible! - but perfect prayer doesn't seem so elusive.

    On being taught to pray, can I share what we have learned? We try to pray using the structure of the Lord's Prayer: God's character > God's kingdom > God's provision > God's forgiveness > God's guidance > God's protection.

    Sometimes we allow the Prayer to read us, highlighting which area God wants to teach us about. Sometimes we start with our own perceived need, but allow the Prayer to move us on. Style is not so important. But my - as yet imperfect! - experience is that the Prayer is no longer religious (t)rite, but perhaps closer to the reason Jesus gave it as a pattern.

  3. Andrew,
    You're on to it here. The whole idea of "perfection" challenges me as a Lutheran (and I'm at a Methodist seminary, so the challenge is always in my face). I guess perfection seems like an end, something that one may arrive at if one strives enough. I feel more comfortable with the striving without the arriving or even the promise of arriving.

    I LOVE your formula for using the Paternoster and will be employing it in my own efforts. It really helps, thanks.

    I'm flirting with fixed hour prayer right you have any experience with that?


  4. Yes. Thankyou. I'm waiting too.

  5. Hi Chris!
    Jo reminds me that next Saturday it will be a year to the day since you took us to Perth Zoo...[blogged at and also at ]
    Where has the time gone?!

    Every blessing to you and your family :-)

  6. Nadia - Laughing Out Loud at the idea of a striving Lutheran...sitting here trying to remember what forgotten doctrine Luther rediscovered: salvation by - now, was it 'works' or was it GRACE...?! ;-)

    On fixed hour prayer, I have some experience of that. It is one of the disciplines of the neo-monastic community I belong to. For a couple of years the pattern of communal prayer at the church we're part of was five times of prayer in the day: half-an-hour at 7am, 9am, and 7pm, and quarter-of-an-hour at 12noon and 3pm. Each time had a different emphasis/style. I was on the church staff team at the time, and expected to be (and able to be!) at 3 out of 5 each day. But there were always some church members who came along to one or other, as the pattern of their working week allowed. (The pattern has varied from one season to another - 5x being the most!) And we also produced bookmarks with a few verses to meditate on and pointers for prayer - for the morning on one side, and the afternoon/evening on the other - as a resource for people at work who couldn't take 15 mins out to pray, but could take a 5 minute break...

    I guess I suggest that it is easier if you can do it with others in community; and that you try starting with two times in the day (there's something about only once that is hard to sustain - I guess it is more static than dynamic - and any more than two is worth building up to, if not impossible for non-monastics who have to engage with family, work, etc.).

    Is that any help?

  7. I can't believe how fast that has gone!
    My clearest memory is of the turtles though...

    Love to all of you.


  8. one tip i'd have too for spending sizable chunks of time praying is to expect it to be a hard slog at first. i used to get excited about things like praying more, but then when i'd come to it i'd get bored or distracted or couldn't concentrate or just generally wouldn't want to do it. but last year i decided to spend 2 hours a day with God, & expected from the outset thati'd find it really hard, so when it was i didn't get put off. after a few weeks it became much easier most, though not all, of the time.