I mentioned in a prior post that each day in December, I’m reading Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr., an Advent devotional. His words about Zechariah are a wonderful encouragement for anyone who has ever prayed earnestly for something they long for deeply, only to hear silence.
It must have been easy for Zechariah and Elizabeth to assume God’s answer to their prayer for children was “no.” Wangerin postulates that they started praying for offspring soon after they wed, only to spend long years barren.
Luke 1:13 finds Zechariah in the temple of the Lord, an old priest preparing to burn incense to the Lord Almighty. And there an angel appears. He says, “Don’t be afraid, for your prayer is heard.” I wonder if Zechariah’s mind flashed, what prayer? before the angel announced the coming of John, his son.
How many of us, in our longing for husbands or children, feel we’ve prayed so long with no answer, that surely God must be saying “no”? I certainly felt that doubt many times when I was single. I often prayed for forgiveness for doubting God. It’s just so hard to have faith in the face of years of unaswered prayer.
And yet, God hears.
God does not forget our prayers. It is in the fullness of time that he answers them. He answers in that rich kairos, when to answer at all does the most good for the most people!
… And you, my friend — you thought your old prayers had gone unanswered (because we always live in the particular present, forgetting the past, unkowing the future).
How easy it must have been for the Jewish peole to doubt God hears. It had been 400 years since anyone had heard from God. Four hundred years of silence between the last words of Malachi and Gabriel’s appearing beside the altar (Luke 1:11).
That makes my decade of prayer seem like an instant.
And yet, God remembers. That’s what Zechariah means: Yahweh remembers.
And so pray. With faith in Almighty God, ask. And when you doubt, pray for that, too. Like the father in search of a miracle for his son, pray, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
This Advent, let Wangerin’s exhortation encourage you:
So now, my friend, you are about to pray a little prayer. Whom shall you pray for? What is your immediate heart’s desire? Pray it. Use simple words…. For even as you pray it, the prayer lodges with God — eternal, omnipotent, God only wise — never to die but in the fullness of time to find its holiest, most blessed expression.
Copyright 2006 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.