“Wait for the Lord”

Psalm 27

“Wait for the Lord:  Be Strong, Take Heart”


The 40 days and 6 Sundays of Lent are a time for discipline, meditation, prayer and waiting, waiting for a word from the Lord.  During this time I find myself often going to the psalms for a word from the Lord.

Last week we looked at Psalm 91 and the role that particular psalm has played at critical times, comforting people, reassuring them of God’s protection and shelter.

Today we have read Psalm 27 with words and images that help marshal our inner resources and bind our beliefs.  As we read the words, we sang a response that includes our meditation for the day, “Wait for the Lord; be strong: take heart.”  It is a challenge based on a promise in the psalm.


I first became aware of Psalm 27 when I was serving as Associate Executive of the Presbytery of Providence in upstate South Carolina.  A presbytery is the connectional council for all the Presbyterian churches in a particular region.

One day the executive for the presbytery called me in and said, “I need your help conducting the funeral of one of our retired ministers.  He wanted you to read Psalm 27 at his funeral.

“Who was this man? I did not know him.”

“You did not know him, but he knew you.  He was a special man,” the exec said, “and we want to plan a special service.  And,” he said, “the press will be there to cover it.”

“The press?” I said. “Who was this man?”

“Go read about him,” he said.

I learned that the Rev. Robert Toatley had been an influential leader in the civil rights movement in South Carolina.  He had sent his son as one of a handful of black children to be the first to integrate the public schools in Rock Hill. That was a risky, dangerous thing to do. His home and his church were threatened by the Ku Klux Klan.  Then when no other black would because of fear, he marched down to the elections office and registered as a candidate for the Rock Hill City Council. He had spent his ministry marching for equality.  He marched until he was too sick to walk.

Knowing that these words had been God’s promise to Robert Toatley, I found new meaning in them:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?”

The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?”


The next time I experienced Psalm 27 was September 14, 2001, three days after 9/11. I heard it in the memorial service held at the National Cathedral in Washington.  Last week I named times when as a nation we have read the words from Psalm 91.  But this time in the face of such great tragedy and loss of life, the psalm read was Psalm 27.  Again the words took on  new meaning:

“For God will hide me in God’s shelter in the day of trouble; God will conceal me under the cover of God’s tent; God will set me high on a rock.”

A year later I encountered Psalm 27 again.  This time the Director of the Presbyterian home for children near Grandfather Mountain was sharing about the circumstances from which the children come to them, situations of abuse, violence, neglect.

“They do not trust anyone,” she said, ‘they have never felt safe before in their lives.  “So we share with them the message of this psalm that they need not fear” and we read the promise, “If my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.”

Time passed, and I saw Psalm 27 appear again.  This time in the Super Bowl when San Francisco quarterback, Colin Kaepernick played the game with the words of Psalm 27:3 tattooed on his left arm. “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.”

Four very different circumstances, the funeral of a servant of the Lord who sacrificed and took risks for the rights of others, a memorial service at a time of great crisis and loss for a nation, a ministry with children who had been abused and neglected, and a quarterback who wanted to make a statement.

Each circumstance was a time of looking for courage and strength.  Each involved hoping to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  “Wait for the Lord;” the psalmist says, “be strong: take heart.”  It is a challenge based on a promise.


It has been said that God answers our petitions in one of three ways: Yes. No. or Wait. The most difficult of these answers is of course “Wait.”

We are a demanding society; we want everything instantly. When we pray, we expect the answer to the prayer to come quickly. But sometimes we find there is nothing to do but “wait upon the Lord.”

Only there is actually something going on while we wait.  You see the verb translated from the Hebrew as “wait” comes from the word “qavah,” which has two facets to its meaning. It means to wait, as in anticipation, but it also means to tie or bind together, like a cord or rope being woven together from several strands and made ready for use. It has been strengthened from the multiple stands drawing upon each other.

So when the prophet Isaiah says, “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” he is saying “those who are patient and bound together with the Lord can anticipate a renewing of their strength” (Adam J. Speck, Waiting on the Lord, Part 2:  “In the Waiting Room of God,” Sept 29, 2008, www.devotionalbyte.com).

And when the psalmist says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong: take heart,” the psalmist is saying gather your inner resources to bind your beliefs, and you will find strength.


I do not know about you, but for me waiting is most profound in the stillness of the night. Sometimes I wait in the night because I cannot sleep.  Sometimes I wait in the night because I want and need the stillness.

In her book Seven Sacred Pauses, Benedictine sister Macrina Wiederkehr explores the practice of praying through the Liturgy of the Hours, seven times in twenty-four hours to pray. The first hour is called Matins or Vigils.  It is prayed in the dark of the night before dawn. Wiederkehr describes this night watch as a time to wait for the Lord:

“When I rise from my sleep for prayer, I keep vigil with Christ, who is always keeping vigil. I keep vigil with my heart’s eternal questions and deep longings… I keep vigil with those whose tired hearts have lost hope… I pray for those with fearful hearts, for those whose courage is waning. I pray for those who have lost vision of what could be.

When I rise in the middle of the night, my prayer is simply one of waiting in silence, waiting in darkness, listening with love.”

Lent is a time of discipline, meditation and prayer.  But Lent is also a time of waiting, waiting for a word from the Lord.  So let us wait.

Let us wait in the darkness for the Lord who is our light and our salvation.  Let us wait in the fear and frailty for the Lord who is the stronghold of our lives.  “Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.”

Let us make this our meditation today:

“Wait for the Lord; be strong: take heart.”

“Wait for the Lord; be strong: take heart.”

“Wait for the Lord; be strong: take heart.”