In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV
One urban legend holds that we spend three years of our life waiting. It's a great stat, but likely untrue. But here are some real stats about waiting. New Yorkers lead the nation in wait time. According to a 25-city survey, New Yorkers spend an average of 6 minutes and 51 seconds waiting in individual store lines. Miami comes in second at 6 minutes and 44 seconds. Who spends the least time? Clevelanders—they spend just 4 minutes and 33 seconds in line.
Which lines do people hate the most? Grocery store checkout lines. The same survey also found that half of consumers have refused to return to stores that had long wait times. The average wait times for doctors is 24 minutes. But in urban areas and among certain specialties, the waits can be much longer. Neurosurgeons have the longest wait times—30 minutes, on average. Why? "All patients have questions for their doctor, but not surprisingly surgical patients have more questions about the procedure, process, and expected outcomes." The average wait time for an ER visit was a staggering 4 hours and 7 minutes in 2009.
Do you hate waiting? Don't move to Russia. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association sent its spies to wait in lines in stores, banks, post offices, and drugstores in 24 European countries and found that Russian customers spent the most time waiting in queues, followed by the Italians and Bulgarians. The Swedes got off easy, just 2.2 minutes per line.
We are not skillful at waiting, are we? We tend to be impatient, hurried, distracted, suffering from spiritual ADD (SQUIRREL!!) It is, however, a necessary skill in these difficult days. We must learn to hear God's voice -- and that comes via waiting.
In his book Intercessory Prayer, Dutch Sheets lays out three word for "waiting on the Lord," each of which has a different shade of meaning. The first is dumiyah, which means "silently waiting with a quiet trust." The thought conveyed is a strong, calm quiet trust in the Lord. David in Psalm 62:1-2, "My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken."
The second word, chakah, means "adhere to" or "long for." "Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield" Psalm 33:20. This is what David felt when he said, "My soul thirsts for God" Psalm 42:2 63:1. He was chakah--longing for God's company.
The third word, qavah, mans to wait for...with eager expectation." It also means " to bind something together by twisting or braiding." The main thought, then for qavah is "eager expectation and oneness; a joining, a braiding together, used in these verses:
Wait for the LORD, be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31
Dutch Sheets summarizes the three meanings, putting them all together thusly:
"Silently waiting with a strong, calm trust, longing for His presence and eagerly expecting Him--for you know He'll show up--anticipating and then experiencing the oneness that results as your hearts become entwined." **
Our warfare may arise from our waiting, as we listen to hear the best strategy, when to advance, when to retreat or detour. Let's work on this skill, like Mary in Luke's story (10:38-43). She sat quietly at Jesus' feet. Her sister Martha was "distracted with much serving." The Greek word distracted is perispaow, meaning to drag around in circles.
As Jesus said, Mary chose the good portion. Let's choose it as well.
Slowing down, tuning in, shutting up, waiting.... Perry Floyd
** Intercessory Prayer, Dutch Sheets, Bethany House, 1998, p. 161