For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
It seems that life is filled with waiting. There is waiting in the checkout line, doctor’s office, airport terminal, and red light. There is waiting for the car to get fixed, the check that’s in the mail, and the biopsy so feared. No matter our microwaves, microchips, fast food, and fast travel, there seems to be an awful lot of waiting. We even have special rooms in hospitals and businesses designated just for fidgeting and waiting. And all the while that we wait, it can feel like life is put on hold.
It is here again that the Book of Psalms speaks to life where we are living it. I was a first year student in Biblical Hebrew trying to sort out the several different word translated by our one English word “wait”. I soon learned that the Psalmists were virtuosos at waiting, and even concocted a vocabulary for waiting. They lived much of their lives waiting, but mostly waiting for God. They talked about “waiting patiently”, “waiting hopefully”, “waiting longingly”, and “expectantly”.
The psalmists believed that God was someone worth waiting for. So, in today’s Scripture text, David, a tried and proven expert in all matters of waiting, writes about waiting for God “in silence”. David camps out at God’s doorstep and he waits. He waits. He doesn’t say a word he just waits for God.
David is writing about a kind of prayer in which people come to God without words and simply let themselves be. I first found this kind of prayer difficult because I had put so much emphasis upon doing, upon what I thought I could do for God.
I can be a wordy person, as you probably know, but there are times when I run out of words. Times I can’t find the right ones. That great master of words, C. S Lewis, said that he actually preferred wordless praying. (See Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer) But it took me a good while before I learned that I don’t always have to be talking to be praying. I can wait silently for God.
I discovered this way of praying, or waiting silently for God, when I was so confused and broken that I just didn’t know what to say to God. I could find no words, but the words, “can I just be with you Lord?” I later learned that the old monks called this kind of wordless praying, “lap time with God”. I’m learning that God is fluent in my language of silence.
Just as my wife Rita and I enjoy long moments of being together, without saying a word, so we can enjoy moments of being silent with God. When I allow life to get too busy or stressful, I like to show up and shut up with God. Letting go my addiction to words and to performance, I wait in silence for God, who “alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress”.
Might this be a reason that God sometimes keeps us waiting? He wants us to let go the tyranny of talking and doing, so that we will let go, rest, and be still. Why don’t you try it? How about clearing out some space in life for being still, and waiting silently for God to do what only He can do?
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Grace and peace,
photo by N.