What are you waiting for? What have you prayed for more years than you can count? These are the deep desires, the ones we don't take out and look at very often for fear that we might grow discouraged. But in the dark of night, when we're trying to sleep, these are the desires that keep us awake and on our faces before Him. The first thing I think of, when I think of the long wait between my first prayer to the answer, is for my dad to come to Jesus. It was about a 20-year wait, and through all those years, I kept believing, hoping and praying for him, without knowing positively that God would answer, except that God loved my dad more than I could have dreamed of loving him (and that's saying a lot!).
I'll never forget the day--a Monday morning, while my children were watching Sesame Street--when my dad called to say, "I finally understand, I finally know Jesus." There were tears in his voice, tears on my cheeks, and there are tears now, thinking of it. Oh God, how great Thou art!
That prayer, the long wait for the answer, and the beautiful moment when God said, "yes!" (sooo worth waiting for!!!), have all been key to me trusting for others--other prayers, especially prayers for salvation for others I love.
And sometimes, God even whispers a word to help us wait.
This is the case with the two people Incarnate God met after He settled into Mary's womb, gestated, grew fingernails and hair, and was born. Both of these people were very old--ancient almost. I imagine a bent-over, wrinkled old man with white hair and snowy beard caping his shoulders and chest, leaning on a hand-carved cane. His ears are long and droopy, perhaps unable to hear all the deep notes of men's voices, but attuned to the very whisper of God. And the woman, shrunken so she's barely taller than a child, with arthritic fingers and a steel gray braid down her back. Her eyes have worked too hard for too many years, staring at people's inside as she says, "Thus says the Lord," as prophets do.
So Mary and Joseph took the baby from the manger in the cattle cave and to Jerusalem to the Temple, where, at 40 days old, the baby would be consecrated to the Lord. This tiny God-child was dedicated by his human parents, set apart to do exactly what He'd planned from before Time to do. Isn't that awesome to consider/ Sure, every Jewish first born son was consecrated in exactly this way, but this time, this time!. it meant something completely beyond what Mary, who treasured every strange and wonderful moment, even understood.
And at the Temple, this ancient man, Simeon, righteous, devout, and himself consecrated, sees them coming, takes the baby and begins to praise. Have you begun to notice how worship is natural response of everyone who meets this child? We lose sight of this, I think. We expect so much from Him that we're too busy telling Him those wants when, if honed, our natural, instinctive response (and the one I'm certain we'll have in heaven) is simply to lift our voices in rapt praise. Simeon had waited all his life to hold and worship this child. God had even told him he wouldn't die until he was granted the privilege of seeing Him. Upon holding Jesus (can you even imagine getting to hold God in your grimey little hands? Talk about waiting. Talk about feeling like he could actually die, because after all what else could life hold after holding God? Simeon then turns to Mary and tells gives her some clues about what Jesus would do and mean, but then speaks these words that no woman would ever want to hear about her newborn child: "And a sword will pierce your own soul." I feel a hitch in my soul hearing them. Do you think she was always watching for what Simeon meant? I do.
And then Anna, the grizzled old prophetess, coming running up to them, gives thanks and says directly, "This is the child we've been waiting for, the one who will bring the redemption of His people." It says she never left the temple but had spent every day, fasting and praying. The implication is, praying for this exact moment, this encounter with God Incarnate.
Thinking about them, I think of something CS Lewis says, I think in Weight Of Glory. Or maybe in Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer. Our desires are not too big for God, but rather too small or too weak. We do not have because we do not ask, Jesus tells His disciples in John. Do we sweat blood over people? Do we kneel until our shins are rubbed raw with floor burns? Do we crave seeing Jesus? Do we crave the salvation of the world. I mean crave it like a person wandering in the desert craves water. What are you waiting for, I ask again. What are you holding out for? To see the baby, just once before you die? To so behold Him that you are moved to worship just at the sound of His name?
I pray for such deep, earnest desire, in you and in myself. And like Simeon and Anna, perfect examples, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. It was for them, it can be for us.
What are you waiting for?