Just as there are things we can do to hinder our soul from learning to know God on the same level as our spirit (denying God’s sovereignty, refusing to change our beliefs, etc.), there are habits we can develop, opportunities that we can respond to that will cooperate with God in His plans for His revealing. The fastest and most effective habit we can learn is the Act of Waiting on the Lord.
Waiting: The “How-To’s” of Hearing the Lord’s Voice
The idea of waiting on the Lord, or practicing His presence, has become a common topic for most believers today. At first, there was some controversy regarding the concept because of its connection to mysticism or even occultic practices. For our purposes, waiting on the Lord is the process by which our soul and body are presented before the Lord in stillness by faith to provide Him the opportunity to do His work without our conscious interference.
Who you truly are, a spirit being, is in perfect communion and communication with God. Your soul—your mind, will and emotions—are in the process of being healed of the wounds caused by believing lies about God, yourself and others. As your soul is healed, your body is also being relieved of the stress and pressure of trying to meet the needs of the soul. Your soul is now learning to get its needs met, its life from its source: the Eternal Life that now dwells within you and is available to the soul from your spirit. Part of this process is learning to overcome our three enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. These are the processes that are going on even as we form the habit of turning to the Lord in dependence by learning to wait on Him.
How to Start
Decide on a specific amount of time.
As a starting point, set as a goal to practice learning to wait 20 minutes 5 times a week and 2 hours twice a week. For some this may sound like a lot, to others, not much at all. If too much, go ahead and commit to what your schedule will allow. The blocks of time can be broken up, though it’s good to set the goal to be able to eventually spend a good chunk of time waiting on the Lord. The ultimate goal will be to maintain a constant, perpetual, restful waiting on the Lord, while still engaged in normal everyday activities. We want to be occupied with living, but not pre-occupied.
Set a separate time apart from study, prayer or healing.
This time is dedicated to the purpose of making yourself available to the Lord for His purposes. Your focus will be on being still before Him, not hearing, learning or receiving from Him, but simply being present with Him. So distinguish this time from other times you may have set with Him for other purposes.
Time of day.
Your personal schedule will contribute to your decisions regarding when to spend time waiting on the Lord. There seems to be something particularly effective to waiting on the Lord in the mornings. Perhaps it is because the cares of the day have not entered into our mind, will and emotions. But it is often the best time to be open to instructions for the day as well as having the mindset that we are starting fresh (though the Lord wants us to learn to “start fresh” throughout the day). Ask the Lord when the best time for you is; start with something that makes sense to you, then give the Lord an opportunity to revise to fit His requirements.
Pick a place that is comfortable yet not conducive to falling asleep. You’ll also want to make sure there are not a lot of distractions, whether visual, mental or audible. You may want to set up a particular location for this purpose; this may contribute to your ability to get into a mindset that is attentive to the Lord. Once you develop the habit of waiting, you will expand that ability to wait into any situation that the Lord calls you to. But for now, do whatever is helpful to establish a habit. You will also want to limit the number of locations that you do your waiting in, as each location is likely to have distinct distractions that will have to be overcome. For instance, you may find taking your lunch break in a nearby park may be suitable. But if you can’t really get into a reliable routine you may want to consider other options.
What Do You Do?
Okay, so you’ve got a plan for when and where you’re going to wait on the Lord. What exactly do you do next?
In a nutshell, the act of waiting is providing the Lord with the opportunity to do His work IN you with as little interference FROM you as possible. To do this, your focus will be to let the Lord bring your mind, will and emotions into focused submission to Him. This will not be accomplished by your own efforts; you are simply making yourself available.
First, get comfortable in a quiet, undisturbed setting. If you only have a limited amount of time, be able to see a clock easily from where you are sitting. As you close your eyes, think of closing the door to outside distractions. When I first started this I would announce, “Lord, I’m here for you” to set the purpose of my time. When my mind began to wander I would repeat the phrase to myself as a way to gently bring my thoughts back to their focus on the Lord.
Focus on what’s going on inside, literally, what’s going on in your body. Without strain or effort, let yourself become aware of a single rhythmic element in your body, such as your breathing or heartbeat. If you like, you can focus on an outside rhythm, such as a clock ticking. The point here is to cooperate as much as you are able with the Lord as He begins to still your mind, will and emotions. As you focus on your heartbeat, for instance, don’t pay attention to what you are thinking, feeling or should be doing. Just listen; don’t necessarily “hear” something.
Your mind WILL wander! The odds are that for most of your life you have let your thoughts and emotions go wherever they wanted. There were of course times when they would be disciplined, but they would entail self-discipline, brought under control by your own strength of mind, will or emotions. Now we are learning to free our soul to be joined to our spirit, which is already joined to the Holy Spirit. As your mind wanders, don’t react! Or if you feel anxious, or are even antsy sitting still, don’t react! Simply close your eyes again and remind yourself of your present purpose—to be with the Lord!
Whatever happens during this time is up to the Lord! This is His training ground, and He will provide exactly what we need to accomplish His purpose for this time. Reacting to the actions of our soul only gives it control and keeps it from being free and available to the Lord.
The importance of this time is not that you get something out of it or see a change or have a sense of His presence. The purpose of this time is simply that you show up for class. The Lord will do the rest.
Adrift in Him
As an illustration, picture yourself on an inflatable raft in the middle of a lake. There are waves all around, being whipped up by the wind, and there is nothing you can do about it. The wind is caused by external distractions, and the waves are caused by activity in your soul. But you find that as you accept the waves as they are, and let your outward and inward senses rest, over time the waves begin to be quieted. The waves get smaller and smaller, until you find that the only ripples are caused by your own movements on the raft. Eventually even these ripples will cease as you relax in His presence, whether that presence is sensed or not. The surface of the lake becomes as smooth as glass. Just “be” there—you don’t need to hear, sense, think or feel anything to know God is doing His deepest work in you. He is tuning your senses to His frequency, so you will be able to recognize and respond on His terms.
Eventually, over time, there is a strong likelihood that during these times He will begin to make His presence known to you by deliberately causing ripples on the surface of your stillness. Because you have allowed the Lord to sharpen your senses, you can rest assured that He will make Himself known in a way recognizable to you, and you will recognize and be able to discern its source and meaning.
Our soul’s awareness is being transferred by our spirit in cooperation with God’s Spirit from what is going on in the body (and through the body, our natural circumstances) and in the soul realm (what’s taking up the attention of our mind, will and emotions). In this way, He gives His life to us and lives His life through us, often without our even knowing it (He will often bypass our mind, will and emotions and directly impact both our personal circumstances and the natural realm, including time).
Meditation & Mysticism
There are many similarities between waiting on the Lord and Eastern meditation techniques. The reason is that whether you are a believer or not, your soul and body function the same way. For Christians, the purpose of quieting the soul and body is to become available to, receive life from and give up control to the Holy Spirit. For the unbeliever, the purpose is to become available to, receive life from and give up control to something other than the Holy Spirit. That “other” is defined in numerous ways depending on your beliefs. We don’t need to be concerned about what others may be focusing on; the Lord is strong enough to make Himself known to us on His terms, and provide whatever guidance, assurance and protection we may need as we follow on to know Him.
As you develop the ability and practice, you will begin to notice that the Lord will draw your attention to Him, inwardly and/or outwardly, at various times during your routine daily activities. His eventual goal is that our entire life be lived with an awareness of what is going on in the supernatural and spiritual realms, because the Lord has quickened our senses to be able to perceive what He reveals. Of course, He is simultaneously bringing us into wholeness by exposing our flesh and healing our wounds.
Why Do We Have to Wait?
Why doesn’t God just give us what we need to be able to discern His Presence? Because He is not only after a change in our ability, but in our attitude. God wants us to value Him; we do not seek what we do not value! So as a treasure He withdraws His Presence, not to tease us, but to draw us after Him, and to expose our hidden attitudes toward Him. Here are some of the ways we reject the Lord’s overtures without even knowing it:
We miss Him because He comes to us Unwanted
Jesus wants to be wanted. Though the odds are that all of us say that we want to know the Lord, we may only want to know Him on our terms. But how He comes to us is for Him to decide. He doesn’t take too well to being dictated to. As we learn to wait on Him, He begins to reveal to us things that we want MORE than we want Him! We want to control our time, our circumstances, and how and when He speaks to us. Part of the process of learning to wait brings us to the point of wanting to know the Lord simply because we want to know Him, not for what He does, says or how He makes us feel. Would we go where we’re not wanted? Do you want Him? How long are you willing to wait?
We miss Him because He comes to us Unexpected
Just as Jesus wants to be wanted, He also wants us to know His character enough to know that He will respond to our waiting. He wants us to have confidence, excitement and patience for His coming. He is not under our time restrictions, and makes Himself known in the manner and timing of His choosing. But He doesn’t want us taking Him for granted. He wants us to wait for Him with anticipation.
We miss Him because He comes to us Unrecognized
What does hearing from the Lord, knowing Him look, feel, sound like? If we come to the practice of waiting with a clear set of expectations, we are essentially dictating to the Lord how He can reveal Himself to us. Though He is gracious and considerate, and will often respond according to our preconceptions, over time He wants to broaden our perception of His Presence and make Himself known in a variety of ways. It is more important that we have our senses tuned to be able to recognize His Presence than to have memorized ways to evaluate whether it is the Lord or not. We recognize Him because we know Him and know the sound of His Voice.
We miss Him because He comes to us Un-Understood
Likewise, even if we want, expect and recognize Him when He comes, we must also learn to understand what He says or does. He is the Teacher and Counselor. If we want to understand the Lord and His ways, we can count on Him to provide that understanding in a variety of ways according to His purpose and plans. Recognize that He is Truth, and what He says and does will not necessarily line up with what we already “know.” To understand Him, we will have to relinquish our understanding.
Practical Consequences of Waiting
Learning to wait on the Lord is something we can all do, regardless of our circumstances, skills or abilities. When we realize that God is waiting for us to wait, and that waiting is something we CAN do, DOING it can take the pressure off of us as we learn to rest and let Him do the work. Instead of having to perform or achieve to get a blessing from or connection with God, we rest in the realization that all requirements have been paid by Jesus already, and we are doing all that we need to do.
The Lord Himself changes us in ways that we can’t even imagine, then provides us with opportunities to test what our senses are picking up. His voice becomes easier to recognize and His ways more obvious to respond to. His presence comforts, encourages, leads, guides and directs us ever more subtly. The more our focus is fine-tuned on the things of the Lord, the more the things of this natural realm become strangely dim. He becomes our home, and we find ourselves at peace with Him, with others and with ourselves.
The more time we spend with the Lord, the more liberty He takes in bringing our soul and body into alignment with our spirit, which is already in alignment with His Spirit. Though nothing may appear to be happening on the surface during our times of waiting, the Lord is doing a deep work without our interference. He heals wounds, speaks to our mind, will and emotions, provides guidance, direction, encouragement and wisdom, all without our necessarily knowing it in our consciousness. Eventually we notice we don’t react to stress the same way, the decisions we were struggling with last week now have clear answers. And we are no longer controlled as much by the rejection of others.
Circumstances May or May Not Change
God has coordinated the very circumstances you find yourself in to accomplish His purposes. Part of the benefit you will receive from learning to wait on the Lord is a greater understanding of the circumstances, with the confidence that because you are hearing from Him, if there are changes that need to be made, you are receiving the best counsel available. Of course, there are likely to be times when the heavens will be like brass, and you don’t feel like the Lord cares about you or your circumstances. As you wait on Him, giving Him time to accomplish His purposes in you and for you, even if you don’t understand what He is doing through the circumstances, you will at least be able to endure them. It is through our circumstances that we often see the greatest evidence of where we are still under the influence of our enemies the world, the flesh and the devil. It is worth waiting on Him to be able to overcome according to His plan rather than our impatience or ignorance.
People who habitually engage in waiting on the Lord often find many symptoms of stress lessened simply from the process of letting the body relax. This is in addition to the healing the Lord desires to bring to all of us according to His plan and time. Some physical symptoms that may improve are headaches, high blood pressure, inability to concentrate, sleeplessness and sleep interruption.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas