From God's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
“Waiting on God”

“Waiting on God”

“Prayer is utterly impossible,” said Bishop Martin in his sermon on Advent Sunday [from about 50.45]. “Anyone in this congregation who thinks they’re good at prayer – you can leave now, because I just don’t believe you.” Prayer is also utterly simple, I respond. Anyone who thinks they don’t or can’t pray at all – you should keep reading, because I just don’t believe you either!

Ann Lewin captures the simplicity in her lovely poem “Disclosure”, which begins: “Prayer is like watching for the Kingfisher. / All you can do is / Be where he is likely to appear, and / Wait.“

Of course, it is hard to Be and hard to Wait. It means going against the flow of today’s instant culture, whether the waiting is for a meal or a bus or a kingfisher or for God. And it is so easy to fill our time up with shopping or leisure, TV or social media, meetings or gossip, and miss the simple fact of our existence and relationship with God. At this time of year it is thrown into particularly sharp relief, as consumer-Christmas encroaches on the Advent season of expectation and preparation.

So it might be helpful to think in terms of waiting on instead of waiting for. Expectation and waiting for are looking to the future. Waiting on is about being here and attentive in the present moment.

Each of us has our own way of stilling ourselves, and the first step is to notice this, because this is where God is more likely to appear. For some it might be seeking solitude and silence, for others it might be a walk in nature, or watching a child or grandchild sleeping, or digging the garden. Then we just let our thoughts drift by and instead tune in to listen for God’s still small voice… coming back again and again whenever thoughts become distractions.

God is patiently and longingly waiting on us for 1,440 minutes every day. Can we find 20 or even 5 minutes to wait on God? All we need to do is be where God is likely to appear, and wait. Yes it is impossible, because we are limited finite beings waiting on the infinite. “But sometimes,” concludes Lewin, “when you’ve almost / Stopped expecting it, / A flash of brightness / Gives encouragement.”

Ann Lewin’s book “Watching for the Kingfisher: Poems and Prayers” is available from Canterbury Press.


This is one of a series of articles appearing in Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, complementing the material I contributed to the “Explore Prayer” section of the Cathedral website. I hope you find them helpful.