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How to Wait

  • Howard R. Macy Professor of Religion and Biblical Studies at George Fox University
  • Updated Aug 17, 2017
How to Wait

Being still - or waiting - is something we do only at red lights. And even there we are anxious, with our foot hovering over the gas pedal. The discipline of waiting is difficult for us to embrace in a world where success is measured in accomplishment and productivity.

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Psalm 37:7).



Waiting is not simply another religious activity. It is a movement of the heart, a stance you take before God. Waiting is an inner acquiescence and abandoning your life entirely to the work of God.


Waiting is a decision. Even though waiting is not an outward activity, it is something that you do. It is not leaning back, watching with bemused curiosity to see if anything interesting will happen. It is a choice to wait and hush the insistent noises of your heart. Waiting is a learned stillness.


Waiting is not easy. It requires practice and persistence. It's a movement of the heart that can be nurtured to the point where waiting can become a gentle expectancy penetrating the busyness of your day.


Waiting requires patience and expectancy. Our natures are more anxious, wanting to rush God's timetable. The eagerness should be for God and not for the timeliness that you desire.


Waiting is listening for God. The external noises of life often deafen us to God's voice. Disturbance is everywhere. Being busy has become a virtue. When you wait, you have a chance to hear God's quiet voice.


Waiting is giving God room. You yield up your expectation of what God should do, and allow Him to do what is best for you.


How to wait:

Turn off or reduce the volume of outward noises. Turn off the radio and television and use them selectively.


Establish periods of quietness in the home in which the family forgoes conversation and noisy activity.


Choose carefully the number and types of voices to which you will listen. Read and listen to the news less often. Resist headline news shows with their breathless urgency. Stop subscribing to certain magazines and don't open junk mail.


Plan tasks and appointments so that you can move from one to another without endlessly creating inner hurriedness.


Say no to requests - even good causes - to preserve some "down time" in your life. Schedule it on your calendar if necessary.


Recognize what your duties are. Don't take on responsibilities for other people.


Don't allow yourself to be pressured to do things you don't need to do. Resist the pride, lust for activity, or an insatiable need to please others.


Take walks without headphones. Don't rush.


Plan retreats: weekends at mountain cabins or a 5-minute recess in a bedroom or office.


Leave space in your prayer time to listen to what God has to say to you. Don't let your prayers become filibusters.


Fast. By refraining for a time from food, from certain habits of buying and entertainment, or from other activities, you can break the cycle of false urgency and impulsiveness.


From Rhythms of the Inner Life by Howard R. Macy, copyright (c) 1988, 1992, 1999. Used by permission of Chariot Victor Publishing, a division of Cook Communications, Colorado Springs, Colo., 1-800-437-4337.

Howard R. Macy, professor of religion and biblical studies at George Fox University in Newport, Ore., received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has been active in a number of ministries, including Christian education, youth work, pastoring, and retreat leadership.