We’ve all made those phone calls to businesses when the person answering the phone asks, “may I put you on hold?” It usually means that they will be doing something that requires them to ask you to wait. With the click of a button on their end, you are on hold. Sometimes there is silence while you wait. Some hold calls will play music while you wait. Other hold services will remind you every minute or so how important you are to them and thank you for waiting. Unfortunately, there are also those times when the phone disconnects or the person never returns. As a caller, we might even hang up because we are tired of waiting. No one likes to being placed on hold.
Often in our praying to God, it may feel as though God has placed us on hold. We have offered a prayer to God about something important in our lives. Usually, it comes in the form of a request; we ask for something on our behalf or another person. Indeed, part of praying is asking. God invites us to ask in our prayers. Nor does God tire of our asking. Our asking reveals that we are dependent upon God. If we didn’t need God, then we wouldn’t ask.
Yet, anyone who has offered a request to God in prayer can testify that seldom do you receive an immediate response. There are times in which God responds in an instance. We call these responses miracles. But most prayers are offered to God, and then we wait. We wait for God’s response. However, sometimes praying requires a lot of waiting. Some people wait lifetimes for a prayer to be answered. There are no quick schemes to get an answer out of God. We have to wait. The psalmist would confess, “But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” (Psalm 38: 15)
The difference between God and the phone calls we sometimes make is that God does not put us on hold. That is, while we wait, God is not absent. Instead, God is present with us in our waiting. We are not left to wait for God’s response all alone, but God’s presence is with us while we wait. In our longing prayers, God remains with us in the moments of uncertainty, worry, and fear that often occur waiting. God often uses the time of waiting to change us and prepare us for the answer God will give. We can trust that God will not leave us on hold. God’s silence does not mean God is not there. Instead, God is holding us while we wait. As God would say through the prophet Isaiah, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13) Waiting is hard, but trusting that God is holding us makes all the difference.