It’s often at about this time of year that I decide that I’m done with winter, and I become rather impatient for spring to arrive. Enough with the cold, enough with the darker days, I’m ready for the sun, and I’d be mighty pleased to see it right away. With my friends, we start relishing the days when we see some improvement. And for each day the weather takes a step back toward winter, we’re completely crushed and think all the forward motion was for naught. Like children eager to grow up, we just want it right away.
In this modern world where we become so accustomed to instant gratification, waiting has become uncomfortable. Such can often be the case with prayer. Prayers can take time to be answered; not every answer comes overnight or even in what seems like a reasonable period of time in our minds. Simply put, prayer—or our apparent lack of progress in prayer—can be downright frustrating.
Just like we don’t see the subtle signs of spring entering softly or just like a child doesn’t notice the subtle changes that eventually lead to the child becoming an adult, we often don’t see a prayer that is being answered slowly, on God’s terms. Pope Francis speaks of this in his new book, The Joy of Discipleship. He shares, “The Lord always chooses his way to enter our lives. Often he does so slowly, so slowly that we are in danger of losing our patience a little. But Lord, when?”
Pope Francis’s words bring to mind for me the story of Elijah (1 Kings 19:9–13) waiting for the Lord on the mountain. He waits through the wild wind storm, he waits through the earthquake, and he waits through the fire. Still the Lord does not come. Finally, Elijah hears the murmur of a gentle breeze, and he knows that the Lord has come. God didn’t choose a dramatic entrance; rather, he chose to enter through a gentle, quiet breeze.
Waiting for a slow, quiet answer to prayer isn’t easy. We risk losing our patience. But take heart—spring arrives every year, and the child, in due time, grows into an adult. We don’t get to choose the how and the when; we can only choose to believe.