Five Prayers for Those Who Wait
Wait. Few words are less welcome.
Few, if any, take hearts raised high and drop them so hard. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). When we wait long for something precious, our hopes can rise and die a hundred times. Heartsickness becomes a constant companion.
Few experiences put our faith in the flames for so long. But few experiences have as much potential to change us for the better. As Paul Tripp writes, “Waiting is not about what you get at the end of the wait; it’s about what you become as you wait.” God stands ready to use the fire of waiting to mold our faith, melt away our dross, and bring us out on the other side refined.
If you find yourself in a season of prolonged and painful waiting, here are five prayers to give to God — five pleas that he would work in your waiting to draw you closer to Jesus.
1. Strengthen me to wait patiently.
We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may . . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, . . . being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. (Colossians 1:9–11)
Almost every area of modern life trains us in the art of impatience. Our culture and (social) media cultivate our taste for ease, comfort, and instant gratification. So when God tells us to wait far longer than we expected for marriage, children, a job, or some other dream, how do we avoid becoming like Israel’s wilderness wanderers, who “became impatient on the way” and “spoke against God” (Numbers 21:4–5)?
We need God to strengthen us with patience. Patience, as Paul’s prayer for the Colossians shows, is not the weakness of people who have no power to get what they want. Patience is the power to press on through difficulties, discouragements, and detours with a heart full of faith and a mouth full of praise.
Patience is the strength of Joseph, who spent the best years of his life in a dungeon, and came out saying, “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Patience enables us to look at all our frustrations and detours, and say to God, “I don’t know what you’re doing, Father. I don’t want to be in this place. I never thought I’d be in this place. But you are wise and good, and I trust that you are working something wonderful. Strengthen me to wait patiently.”
2. Awaken me to today.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Waiting can pressure us to live in two places at once. Our bodies are present in the here and now, but our hearts have long left this present moment, packed up their bags, and pitched their tent in the fantasy land of a future life. We continue to go through the necessary motions, but we expect today to bring very little worthwhile.
We need God to awaken us to today. Today, God’s mercies came up with the sunrise (Lamentations 3:22–23). Today, the heavens sing of his beauty (Psalm 19:1). Today, God rehearses the story of his love (Romans 5:8). Today, we have a cross to pick up (Luke 9:23). Today, we have people to listen to, serve, and forgive (Colossians 3:12–13). Today, we have good works to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).
No matter how mundane, and no matter how far off from the world of our dreams, today is the day that the Lord has made. It is a gift, even if a different gift than we expected. It is possible, even as we wait, to rejoice and be glad in today.
3. Keep me from foolish shortcuts.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)
Our world abounds with foolish shortcuts — opportunities to leave the narrow way that leads to life for a path that soothes our flesh. Prolonged seasons of waiting merely make the shortcuts more obvious.
Scripture has its share of characters who decided they were done waiting. The wilderness generation, waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai to deliver God’s word, decided they’d fashion some gods themselves (Exodus 32:1). King Saul, waiting for Samuel to come and offer an animal before battle, decided he’d play the priest himself (1 Samuel 13:8–10). The Israelites, waiting for God to deliver them from enemy armies, decided they’d buy Egypt’s help instead (Isaiah 30:15–16).
We have our own shortcuts: The single woman who lowers her standards instead of waiting for a worthy man. The believer who seeks a silver bullet to sanctification instead of patiently giving himself to the normal means of grace. Or any one of us who daydreams about a different life instead of thanking God for the one we have.
We need God to keep us from foolish shortcuts. We need God to tell us, as he told his people through Isaiah, that our salvation is in returning and rest, not speed and compromise. Our strength is in quietness and trust, not daydreams and fantasies.
4. Make me want the future you have for me.
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
As we grow up, we can’t help but write a book in our minds of how our life story should read. We mark out the chapters, anticipating the time when we’ll begin a career, or get married, or start a family. But for many of us, every passing year tosses one more chapter into the flames.
We need God to help us want the future he has for us — the future he has written in his inscrutable wisdom. Seasons of waiting train us to relinquish our role as the author of our own story and take up our role as a character in God’s story.
As Christians, we know what our role is in God’s story: proclaim his excellencies (1 Peter 2:9). Sometimes, God calls us to proclaim his excellencies from places of fulfillment and plenty, where we live and speak to show that God, and not his gifts, is our great reward. And other times, God calls us to proclaim his excellencies from places of waiting and lack, where we live and speak to show that God, no matter what he withholds, is more than enough for us.
No matter how disappointing our own plotlines feel, we play our role as characters knowing that our Author has mastered the final twist. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The God who saved the world through a cross and an empty tomb knows how to take our failed stories and turn them into something beautiful. Our role is to trust him and glorify him, even when we can’t see the ending.
5. Remind me of what I’m really waiting for.
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him.” (Isaiah 25:9)
In this world, we always wait for something: a spouse, a job, a child, a prodigal, release from depression, financial freedom. But for Christians, the tremors of something greater rumble beneath every one of these good gifts. We are waiting for something better than this world can give.
We are waiting for a new world, where righteousness bursts through air and sky (2 Peter 3:13). We are waiting for a new body, finally delivered from death and decay (Romans 8:23). We are waiting for a new power, when sin will lose its last hold on us (Galatians 5:5).
But most of all, we are waiting for our King, Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:10). One sight of his face will banish sadness forever. One note from his voice will swallow every disappointment in this life. One moment in his presence will cast all of our pain into the depths of the sea.
We need God to remind us of what we’re really waiting for. Underneath all our waiting in this world is a hope that cannot disappoint. One day soon, our King will come. And no one who waits for him will be put to shame (Psalm 25:3).