This past week when I was in Richmond for a denominational conference, I met my son for lunch on campus at VCU, where he is a student. We enjoyed a good meal, had some good discussion, and when it was time to go I hugged him goodbye and told him I loved him. When I walked out the door and headed toward the parking deck, he followed me. "Are you going to walk me to my truck?" I asked. He nodded, and we walked together, climbing several flights of stairs to my vehicle. "Well," I said, "I've got to get back to the convention," I told him. I gave him another hug, but instead of walking away, he lingered. "Do you need something?" I asked. His eyes told me that he did need something but that he didn't want t to say. "Do you need some money?" I asked.
"Well, I always need money," said the college student. so I handed him the largest bill in my wallet. Still, he looked as if he needed something. So, leaning on my tailgate as men do when they want to have a manly talk, I said, "You know, I can be late to the conference. What's up?" And finally the real conversation began.
In Psalm 40:1 (NASB), David writes, "I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry." As my son demonstrated, when you want the Father's attention, the best thing to do is give him your attention.
All of us go through times of struggle, where all we want to do is talk to our heavenly Daddy. David describes his situation as one in which he feels himself in a bog of quicksand. Perhaps you've felt that way yourself--maybe you're feeling that way now. Academic problems, financial woes, medical situations, or relationship troubles, and so many other things threaten to overwhelm us. But God is the One who lifts us out of the pit of destruction and gives us a firm place to stand. He does this when we wait patiently for him.
Waiting on God is the patient act of inclining the heart heavenward. David doesn't say that God heard his prayer--he says that God hears his cry. This inclination toward God isn't a wordy discourse, but a silent waiting that is anything but idleness. It is trusting that God already knows our hearts. Romans 8:27-27 (NASB) says:
...The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
This means that when we pray, we don't have to worry about words. The Spirit knows what we mean. God knows our hearts. All we need to do is wait patiently for God, and He will incline towards us. Mercy Me sings the song "Word of God, Speak", which says:
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say
In this kind of prayer, the key isn't knowing what to say, but resting in silent trust of God. Verse 4 (NASB) says, "How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust." Trust is active passivity. It is allowing yourself to be God's patient, to let God to work on you instead of trying to do the work yourself.
The problem with prayer is that we've been taught to talk a lot, and to listen very little. But in verse 6 (NASB), David says, "My ears You have opened." Over the years I've learned that prayer is MOSTLY about listening to God, and only a little bit about talking. When we fill the air with our words, telling God everything that we want, we get so distracted that we forget to listen to what God wants. How are we supposed to pray "Thy will be done," if we never listen to discern God's will? What we need is less talking in prayer, and more listening.
In an interview with Dan Rather, Mother Theresa said that when she prays, he doesn't talk to God--she just listens. Rather asked her, "What does God say?" In reply she said, "Oh, God doesn't say anything. He just listens." When we wait on God, and God inclines toward us, this mutual inclination is called meditation and contemplation.
Contemplative prayer doesn't give God a list of everything we want or need. In contemplative prayer, we simply say as David did, "Behold, I come (Psalm 40:7 NASB)." Perhaps this one-sentence prayer is all we need in order to simple BE in God's presence. When we do this, we discern His will, and His word is written on our hearts (v 8). Some other one-sentence prayers from this psalm might also be, "Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; Make haste, O Lord, to help me (v. 13),)" or simply, “The Lord be magnified (v.16)!” Maybe a one-sentence prayer, or a one-word prayer like "Come" is all you need, to rest in God's presence and listen for His voice.
This week His really showed me something in the parking deck with my son. Sometimes we don't need to say a word about what we want. Sometimes all we need to do is patiently wait on God, and God will incline toward us. This silent trust is the greatest kind of prayer.