This morning as I settled into my prayer time, my mind was wandering and restless. Distracting thoughts pelted my consciousness like stones. Finally, I was able to center myself, when I realized God's words to me from James 5, verses 7-11 (NIV). The entire passage reads:
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Patience is a difficult thing when you're engaged in any activity. In prayer, it can be especially difficult because we're not used to sitting quietly in God's presence and simply letting God be God. We try to fill the silence with our own thoughts, wants, fears, petitions, and so on. But God would rather we listened to Him than fill the air with restless chatter. He has some advice for us, as we try to settle our thoughts for prayer.10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
"Be patient...until the Lord's coming." Certainly, this pertains to Jesus' Second Coming, but I think it means more than that. For over two millennia, Christians have been waiting for the Second Coming, but I believe Paul is telling us to be patient as we wait for the Lord to manifest His presence in our heart when we pray. Certainly, He is always with us--but when we enter into prayer with a patient attitude, expecting God to show up in a way that we can discern, He will. Be patient until the Lord's coming. Wait for Him.
"See how the farmer waits..." Jesus talked about farmers all the time, drawing analogies from the agricultural life in order to demonstrate spiritual truth. Now, Paul does the same thing. The farmer sows his seed, and then he waits--simply trusting that the earth will produce. Once you've prayed, don't fret about it anymore. See how the farmer waits, with quiet trust, and do the same thing. God will provide the increase.
"Stand firm..." It's easy to waver in prayer, but God wants believers who will not falter. Standing firm in prayer means sinking your feet deep in the mud of God's promises. The promises of God will cement you in place. When you stand on His promises, He won't let you fall.
"Perseverance" is the key when you're struggling in prayer. Sometimes you don't feel like praying. Sometimes it's a struggle. Sometimes you can even suffer in prayer. But don't give up. Keep on praying, and trust God until He brings His blessing.
The unifying concept in all these four phrases is simply the idea of consistent trust and passivity before God. The word "patient" comes from the root word "passive." To be patient before God means to rest in Him, to quit trying to work and struggle, and simply trust. Too often our prayers are filled with struggles within ourselves, wrestling with God, or battles with the principalities. Why not try simply resting in God? Be passive before Him. Trust that He will work His purpose out. Wait for the coming of the Lord.