I remember a story from one of my mentors in ministry when he was teaching some Bible classes overseas. He had some time away for prayer, so he had noticed some prayer caves used for meditation by a Buddhist temple. (I believe this happened in a Buddhist country.) My mentor hiked off into the hills one day and got curious about the prayer caves. He decided to crawl into one and found it wasn’t much of a cave. He had to lay flat and “army crawl” his way what seemed to be a bigger opening.
The opening did lead to a bigger space, but not much of one. It wouldn’t have been a space he could stand in, and it wasn’t a very big space to explore. Not only that, but when he pulled himself through the opening to begin to come into the bigger space, he found himself face to face with a Buddhist monk who was sitting there in meditation. The “cave” could really only hold the one person, so my mentor found himself face to face with a monk while the rest of his body was in the crawl space.
To say that was an awkward moment is stating the obvious. It’s those moments where we, as Americans, somehow have to have something to say. Not thinking of anything profound to say, my mentor asked, “How long have you been here?” (A greeting must have been exchanged earlier to know the monk would speak English.)
When he asked, “How long have you been here?” the teacher thought the reaction would be something like, “Oh, since about 2 o’clock.”
The monk simply responded, “Twenty years.”
If there is anything that trips us up as American Christians, it is our inability to wait. I constantly talk with people who mention how “long” they’ve prayed about something. When I dig in and ask more questions (and I do this with my own life as well), the answer about “how long” adds up to about an hour over a few days. We’re just so impatient.
The challenge I have for the new year is to fast and pray over the first three weeks of January. My fast will be modified. (No meats, no sweets, no wheats.) The challenge of prayer is another aspect of prayer the Spirit wants to teach me in 2017. It is PREVAILING PRAYER.
A key to prevailing prayer is WAITING. In Genesis 15, Abram has gone a few years without the promise of a son. He is getting impatient. God shows up with another promise of blessing and Abram shows his frustration. He is ready to name Eliezer, his head servant, the heir. God invites Abram to understand the promise again.
Abram had gone years in this process. He would go several more years in this process. This time, there was something different that happened. He decided to believe. He didn’t need to see the promise. He just need to believe he would see the promise.
We generally try to figure out how to help God with his promises. We help with our “solutions.” We want to help with God’s timing. Anything. We get impatient.
Abram had gone years. We can’t go minutes.
But at some point, our waiting can turn to faith.
God gives Abram the visual lesson of looking up and trying to count the stars.
At some level it is God simply saying, “Abram, I will do this.”
In that moment, Abram believed. The physical hadn’t changed. More waiting would happen. But the spiritual had shifted.
Waiting and believing is about trust. Abram couldn’t solve this promise. He had to trust. And when he did, he believed.
We trust who we know.
The obvious statement is, “Waiting takes time.”
Waiting also takes wrestling. We wrestle with our solutions and our timing.
Waiting also takes hope. It is building trust. In the waiting, we walk with God. We learn more of him. WE TRUST.
Waiting is the opportunity to know God. Knowing God isn’t just in the answers. It is more often in the waiting.