My friend was in the hospital for several days, unconscious and on a respirator. No one knew what was wrong or what the outcome would be. All we could do was wait. His immediate family members were with him, doing what they could to support him. They waited to see doctors, waited for tests and test results, waited to see if he would be transported to another hospital, waited for him to wake up—waiting, waiting, waiting. It is surprisingly hard work. [Fortunately at this time he is largely recovered.]
In Quaker expectant, waiting worship, those gathered wait for a settling into the quiet and calm, a sense of the Presence, a word of inspiration or guidance received inwardly or spoken by someone gathered, a leading of the Spirit. The waiting involves the passing of time. It is not always comfortable.
In addition to letting time pass, the word “wait” can mean attending, giving attention to. Today we refer to the people who take orders and serve food in a restaurant as the “wait staff.” Their job is to pay attention to the customers, find out what they want, respond to their requests, make sure they are satisfied.
The waiting in Quaker worship is also an attending. It is being in relationship with the divine, being present with, listening inwardly, quieting oneself so as to be able to hear and respond. It involves showing up regardless, so you’re there when something happens. As a child my younger son didn’t talk much about what was going on with him. If he did talk, it happened most often when I tucked him into bed. I tried to tuck him in every night, and then when he wanted to talk, I was there.
Regular attendance at meeting for worship, taking time routinely for prayer, makes a difference. We learn to wait, we develop relationship with the One who loves us, we become practiced at paying attention and listening. So when there is something we really need to hear, or to say, we are there and ready.
What is waiting like for you?
To wait—have time pass—when you don’t know what will happen is hard. Some say that waiting—attending—on God makes a difference as the time passes. What has been your experience?
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130: 5-6).
For further reference:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. . . .” (See Isaiah 40: 28-31).
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27: 14).