Recently I waited at the station for Catherine’s much anticipated return. It had only been one night and two days away to look after our little grandson, Samuel, but being reunited was the most important part of my day. I waited for only one or two minutes before she arrived, smiling, at the main exit. But it seemed a long time. It made me think about how I had planned carefully and filled every part of the day from an early start to the end. Waiting, it seems, does not come naturally!
Yet waiting - not hurrying - is an important part of our devotional life. “Waiting on God” people say, when they mean prayerfully meditating on some scripture or other helpful words or a picture, expecting revelation to come by the Spirit. Using the Authorised Version language, early Pentecostals held “Tarrying Meetings” (“Waiting Meetings”) - so called because of the instruction in Acts 1:4-5 from the risen Jesus, to “tarry” or “wait” in Jerusalem until they were filled with the Spirit.
In fact, waiting is an important part of our lives as Christians generally. Scripture is full of examples where people needed to wait for what had been promised, not a passive waiting for the clock to tick up to some pre-ordained time, but an active, prayerful waiting. Such waiting is longing for God to do what only He can do, but praying for it and preparing our hearts and lives for it.
The day between Good Friday and Easter day is a reminder of some of the things we are waiting for. The first disciples waited in despair. They could not understand Jesus’ death on the Cross, even though He had explained and taught it was essential. It seemed all their hopes were dashed.
Today, those who suffer injustice - or feel empathy for those suffering - wait for the Judge to put right all the wrongs committed. Those who feel particular pain due to bereavement wait to be reunited with loved ones. We who feel the pain of being in a fallen and sinful world are waiting - perhaps not patiently - for resurrection life to break in. We long for healing or changed circumstances or comfort.
We trust we will be blessed with answered prayer now, with resurrection life and powers of the age to come experienced in the here and now. Maybe we will have to wait until our resurrection: the Kingdom is here among us, but it is also ‘not yet’ and will come fully when Jesus returns in glory.
As the apostle Paul wrote, in Romans 8:22-26
We know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We hope for what we do not yet see. Why? Because we know Jesus rose from the dead - we know it by faith and by our experience of Him today. That is the basis of our hope. And because we hope for resurrection and all that Easter signifies, we can wait patiently even though sometimes life feels more like Good Friday.
But we do not just hope and wait quietly - we pray for resurrection power to break into today, with healing or comfort or transformed character or whatever we need right now. However weak we feel and however painful “Good Friday” may feel, the Spirit helps us in our weakness to pray. We cannot even figure that out on our own but the Spirit helps and inspires whenever we ask.
So let’s pray!