Several verses have the phrase "wait on (or upon) the Lord." For example:

Psa 37:9

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

Isa 40:31

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.

If we were going to wait on the Lord, exactly what actions are we to take?

I know "wait" has several meanings, such as wait and bind together. See https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6960&t=KJV I think that like "faith" can have passive and active elements, so can "wait."

  • 1
    A Christian friend of mine had the saying, "Be busy waiting on the Lord". By that he meant get on with doing what you know the Lord would have you do (your duties, your God-given ministry) whilst waiting for some specific guidance on a matter in question. This turns waiting into a positive thing, not a negative thing. It is not about idleness, or fretting whist wringing one's hands! It expresses quiet confidence in God and God always blesses such faith with spiritual strength.
    – Anne
    May 7, 2020 at 13:34
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    I don't usually quote Milton as I reject the whole of 'Paradise Lost' and 'Paradise Regained' but his poem 'On his Blindness' is a remarkable piece of English poetry containing the very memorable 'they also serve who only stand and wait' and it reminds me of Gabriel telling Zechariah that he 'stands in the presence of God'. (+1) for a good question.
    – Nigel J
    May 8, 2020 at 8:15
  • @Anne I agree with you two. I wrote an article to that effect at stevehusting.com/doubtbusters/2020/05/07/renewig-your-strenggth
    – Steve
    May 9, 2020 at 13:22
  • A good article, glad you directed me to it.
    – Anne
    May 12, 2020 at 7:55

1 Answer 1


"Wait on the LORD" occurs often in several places throughout the OT such as: Ps 27:14, 33:20, 37:34, Prov 20:22, Isa 8:17, 40:31, etc.

The verb "wait" translates one of two Hebrew words as follows:

קָוָה (qavah) This occurs in Ps 27:14, 37:34, Prov 20:22 and Isa 40:31.

חָכָה (chakah) This occurs in Ps 33:20 ans Isa 8:17.

The two Hebrew words have a very similar meaning, that is, to simply wait for something.

In all occurrences, the phrase "wait on the LORD" occurs in the context of people being fearful and in danger of doing something rash or impetuous. Thus there is an accompanying instruction to be of good courage, or, take heart - seek divine wisdom and wait for the Lord, meaning, wait for His leading, and in the meantime, trust His guidance. See Prov 20:22 for a good example of this.

The other side of this "wait for the LORD" is often heard in pious Christian circles as, "do not run ahead of the LORD".

  • How does this kind of waiting "renew their strength"?
    – Steve
    May 7, 2020 at 13:01
  • That is the point - to wait and trust in God means we do not need to be fearful. See Deut 1:30
    – Dottard
    May 7, 2020 at 21:28
  • (+1). Do you think that 'depending on the Lord' would be a valid translation instead of 'waiting on the Lord ?' I do not think 'waiting on' is the same thing as 'waiting for'. I can wait for someone on earth to get around to doing something for me. But 'waiting on' the Lord. is different. As handmaid eyes her mistress' hand, so do our hearts attend.
    – Nigel J
    May 7, 2020 at 21:55
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    @NigelJ - Typically inciteful and penetrating comment from NigelJ. There obviously is a difference, but the verb in the Hebrew in both cases is to "wait" meaning to linger. This can certainly include "serving" in the sense of "waiting on a master" at his table or serving food to him but the primary sense (for me) is to wait for the LORD to either act or advise. The OT has numerous cases where people did not wait for the LORD's instruction (eg Saul).
    – Dottard
    May 7, 2020 at 22:11
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    @NigelJ - quite right - my apologies.
    – Dottard
    May 8, 2020 at 10:00

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