The Waiting Heart


Lynne Elwinger, O.C.D.


The cry of the human heart is definitely an Advent prayer. Once again, as Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the long-ago prayer of the Jewish people for the Messiah to come. This prayer of fervent desire, which they believed would evoke a divine response, was held by many people deeply and consistently for a long time. There is a power in such prayer!

We sometimes forget, in our culture of “instant” everything, that worthwhile projects take longer and are worth waiting for. There is an energy in the prayer of waiting that helps bring to birth that which is desired. As we stay with our deepest longings, bringing them before God with as little agenda for solutions as possible, something new happens. The prayer of our hearts never fails to evoke a response from the God whose love for us is beyond our understanding. This response however, can come in a timing and manner not our own, and initially we may not recognize the reply.

A Group Of People Able To Stand Firm

Think of the situation in the Holy Land before the birth of Jesus. In times not so unlike our own, conflicts raged everywhere, the people were oppressed and fearful and there was no solution in sight. Yet, somehow, a group of people were able to continue to stay firm in prayer with both their own situation and their hope for the Messiah to come bringing a brighter future. In general, the people felt as helpless as individuals do today, faced with global situations that seem beyond our ability to change. It seems unlikely that those continuing faithful in prayer would have imagined the Awaited One coming as a tiny infant born in a manger. Nor would Jesus have been recognized as the answer to their long-held prayer until many years after his birth. In the end, even the most popular idea envisioned by the people of what the Messiah would do to save them, turned out to be far from what God had in mind. Yet the divine response to the faithful prayer of the people, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, absolutely changed the world.

Scripture exhorts us to pray believing that our prayer will be answered, and I think the fine print would say that we should act as if it already has been. We should help live into being that for which we hope.

Recently I read a wonderful little book written by a grandmother at the birth of her granddaughter, as a gift that the child could have for her whole life. She hadn’t written such stories before and only wrote this after pondering at length the world conditions into which this precious infant had been born. She never imagined it would be published, and yet it contains a profound message for all of us. Our prayer with and for the conditions of our world has the power to change things. Most engaging to me is that as people have read this story they have actually begun, in some places, to use an adapted form of the practice about which the story tells. I would recommend this inspirational little book, The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering by Sharon Mehdi, to readers of any age.

Prayer Can Make A Difference

This Advent season, peace is definitely on my heart and mind, and will be the focus of my prayer of waiting. Peace in my own heart, peace with others around me and peace for all people everywhere – this will be my prayer. And I will stay with it regardless of what I see going on around or within me. I know that this peace is already present with us and within us, waiting to be discovered, uncovered, recognized and released. I am hoping that others will be praying this same prayer, and that our combined vision will change things for the better for everyone. I know this prayer can make a difference. It will certainly change those of us who are praying, and because we are all connected, it can change the world.

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