For thousands of years, humanity has believed prayer is something we do, but this is not true. If prayer is an experience of God's presence and it comes through grace, prayer is what God does. We practice; God perfects. We wait, God lifts.
While we wait, we learn humility, compassion, nonresistance, patience, acceptance, and self-love. These are the qualities we value most in other people and in the world. We may strive to live this way and express these qualities, but we fail. We fail because these qualities cannot live in the world until they live in us.
Waiting humbles us. We discover how powerless we are to make changes within ourselves. We try, expend effort, and strive with noble intentions, but we fail to realize that transformation is divine work. The waiting humbles us and opens us to powers and methods we do not understand. Eventually our efforts cease. This happens when divine efforts are best felt and experienced. We let go and "let God be God."
As we wait, we are not passive. Our work is unconditional observation. We become sensitive to what is moving within us. Essentially we are answering the philosopher's maxim "Know thyself." We experience the feelings that move deep within us. We discover the thoughts that live in the depths of our soul. Memories emerge from a sheltered and often shameful or guilt-ridden past. The thoughts, feelings, and memories are not always pleasant, but they do bring us the gift of the moment, and whenever we live in the moment we are truly alive.
As we wait, it is best if we are focused and centered. As stated before, there are myriad prayer practices, but it is good to have a safe home to return to. For instance, I often give my attention to one of the following ideas: It Is, God Is, I Am. Or on another occasion I inwardly declare, God is enough. The possibilities are infinite. I can even give attention to a physical object or an inner image.
I focus and then I wait. In most instances, the waiting is interrupted by thoughts, feelings, or images. I do not condemn them or label them" good" or "bad." Each thought, feeling, or image simply is. It Is, God Is, I Am. This is unconditional observation, and it teaches us compassion and acceptance of ourselves. We don't resist what is emerging from within; we are watchers willing to discover what is moving within us beneath conscious thought and belief. In this way, we come to know ourselves and discover that before nonresistance can be effective in the world, it must be applied to that which moves in our souls.
We focus and wait and watch; the intrusion comes again. Without condemnation, without judgment, we observe and then declare our truth or engage in our prayer practice again, and then we wait only to be seized by the thought or feeling or image once more.
Can you see how humbling this is?
Here is another example of waiting that most of us have experienced: the expected arrival of a friend at the airport. You will find waiting for a friend similar to waiting for the experience of the divine Friend. You stand at the end of the concourse from which your friend will emerge. While you wait, you see some people waiting as you are, and others lovingly greeting friends and family who have arrived before your friend. You observe the reunions and then return to the exit where your friend will emerge. Suddenly you see a police officer riding a Segway. You think, That's a cool machine. I wish I had one. I wonder how much they cost. Is it hard to learn to ride one of those?
You are distracted for a few moments from waiting for your friend, but now your eyes return to the exit and the people streaming from the concourse. You ask one of them what flight they were on. It's not the airline your friend took. You return to waiting and watching. Eventually your friend arrives. Your heart leaps for joy and you greet this dear one with open arms.
Haven't you experienced this form of waiting many times? You were patient, persistent, and focused on the coming of your friend, but you were also distracted from your waiting. Your momentary lack of focus on the concourse exit did not mean you wanted to see your friend any less. Allowing yourself to be distracted did not mean you were a failure. The distractions were part of waiting. Waiting at the airport is a good example of the process we experience when we wait for God.
Eventually the Friend arrives, or more accurately, we discover a Presence that is always with us. We have an experience of the Presence. It may take weeks or even months, but persistence becomes a way of life. We discover a strength we never knew we possessed. We do not quit, for our quest is God. Most people report that the first experience of the
Presence is a feeling of peace or comfort, but the truth is that Spirit can express Itself in a variety of ways. The outcome is that as we learn to wait, our consciousness is transformed. We become increasingly aware that God is real. We receive the gift of an awareness of Spirit. This is what lies beyond time. The gift of God perpetually offered to us is finally received. This consciousness becomes our life and is the glass through which we see ourselves, others and the world. What greater vision could there be? What greater gift could we receive? Above all, we learn to wait.