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A second Old Testament synonym for prayer is waiting on the LORD. It is not necessarily a spoken prayer, but the whole attitude of the heart and mind of the person who really believes in God.

Various Hebrew words are translated by the English ‘wait for’ or ‘hope’. The word used most frequently means ‘to wait for or look for with eager expectation’. This eager, but also quiet and confident, expectation that the Lord can be trusted, that the Lord will act, that the Lord will respond, also expresses our acknowledgement of our utter dependence on him – that without his sustenance, without his salvation, without his mercy, without him, we are also without hope. This waiting on God also involves (1) patience – in allowing God to act in his time, and (2) patience – in not forsaking God’s ways while waiting for him to act. In all of this the element of trust is greatly significant.

Here are some Old Testament expressions of waiting on the LORD:

Waiting for (trusting) the Lord to act in a situation of suffering, danger, injustice or oppression

Psalm 25:1-5 (KJV): ‘Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee … let none that wait on thee be ashamed … Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day...’ (NIV has ‘hope’)

Psalm 27:14: ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.’

Psalm 37:7,9: ‘Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him … those who hope (KJV - wait) in the Lord will inherit the land.’

Psalm 59:9: ‘O my Strength, I watch (KJV - wait) for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God …’

Waiting for the realisation of the Lord’s mercy

Psalm 123:2: ‘... so our eyes look to (= ‘wait upon’ KJV) the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.’

Isaiah 30:18: ‘Yet he longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!’

Isaiah 33:2: ‘O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for (= ‘wait for’ KJV) you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.’

The attitude of prayerful expectation that the Lord will act

Psalm 5:3: ‘In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.’

Psalm 33:20,21: 'We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.'

Psalm 40:1: ‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry …’

Sure dependence on God as opposed to any other source of help or salvation

Psalm 62:5,6 KJV: 'My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.'

Isaiah 40:31: ‘… those who hope in (wait on) the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’

Isaiah 64:4: ‘Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.’

Micah 7:7: ‘But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me.’

A comment from Leonard Coppes:

‘Waiting with steadfast endurance is a great expression of faith. It means enduring patiently in confident hope that God will decisively act for the salvation of his people … Waiting involves the very essence of a person’s being, his soul (Psalm 130:5).
Leonard Coppes, in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p791.

Andrew Murray, commented on Psalm 62:5,6:

‘”My soul, wait thou only upon God.” Never forget the two foundation-truths on which this blessed waiting rests. If ever thou art inclined to think this “waiting only” too hard or too high, they will recall thee at once. They are: thy absolute helplessness; the absolute sufficiency of thy God. Oh! Enter deep into the entire sinfulness of all that is of self, and think not of letting self have aught to say one single moment. Enter deep into thy utter and unceasing impotence ever to change what is evil in thee, or to bring forth anything that is spiritually good. Enter deep into thy relation of dependence as creature on God, to receive from Him every moment what He gives. Enter deeper still into His covenant of redemption, with His promise to restore more gloriously than ever what thou hadst lost, and by His Son and Spirit to give within thee unceasingly, His actual divine Presence and Power. And thus wait upon thy God continually and only...

‘ … our God, in the infinite tenderness and omnipotence of His love, waits to be our Life and Joy. ‘

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016