“And I myself will send upon you what my Father has promised. But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you.”—Luke 24:49
“On one occasion… [Jesus] gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”—Acts 1:4-5, 8
I am not a big fan of waiting especially when I don’t know for what I wait. I doubt very much if Jesus’ disciples understood what he has just told them. I don’t know how they could. They have no concept of what is going to happen to them in just a few days.
The fact is that waiting is a big part of the spiritual life. Ruth Haley Barton says, “…the place of waiting is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them.” Waiting helps grow patience in us. We often pray for patience and joke about not praying for patience but, in fact, patience is a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It is something the Spirit works in us when we stay attached to Jesus.
We would do anything to avoid this type of waiting. It is uncomfortable and often confusing. I would like for God to make haste, but I’ve learned that he has good plans for me (for us) and I need to wait for them. We have to wait trusting God in faithful hope. Barton says that it is in solitude we learn to wait on, and for, God and I’m finally becoming accustomed to the waiting. I wait for direction and I wait for Holy Spirit power. His plans are better than mine and I do not know what they will be.
How do we wait in faithful hope? Prayer. I have learned that centering prayer helps me most while I wait. You may find another way of prayer helpful for you. In centering prayer, the teachers tell us, to center ourselves on that place where God lives within us. (We don’t have to know where that is.) We ignore distracting thoughts, not something I’m great at doing, and wait in the silence for God to work his transformation in us. This prayer gives him permission, so to speak, to do that. It is not a prayer of words, but I have learned that often, for me, God speaks into that silence. I reminded him once that I was supposed to ignore everything wordy that happens in this prayer and he plainly said, “So, I can’t talk to you, now?” I was quick to say he could talk to me whenever he wishes. That is a big part of prayer don’t you think? And we do want to listen and pay attention when he speaks. Don’t tell the gurus that I don’t follow the rules exactly. We wait for God. And we wait with God.
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.—Romans 8:24-25