Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When You Pray and God is Silent

Zacharias was performing his priestly service in the Temple when suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared to the right of the altar and said, "Zacharias, your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son" (Luke 1:13). To grasp the significance of this announcement, we must remember that he was "advanced in years" (Luke 1:7) and could very well have been 80 years old. The same Greek phrase "advanced in years" is used in Luke 2:37 of Anna, who was 84.

Elizabeth and Zacharias probably got married around age 20 or earlier and started praying for a child.  Every day for 5 years they pray, but no answer.
Ten years pass. "Lord, please answer our prayer." No answer.
Fifteen years. "God, have we done something wrong? Don't you love us?" No answer.

Elizabeth passes the age to give birth. She turns 60, then 70, then 80. They can't understand why God never answered, yet they both continued to walk blamelessly, and refused to blame God or get angry with Him. Then Zacharias is "chosen by lot" to serve in the Temple that day.  This position of service was decided by lot, and once he was chosen, this was the only time he could serve in the Temple during his lifetime. It was on this day that Gabriel shows up, calls Zacharias and Elizabeth by name, and tells them their prayer had been answered. Yes, the prayer that they prayed 60 years before!

What can we learn from this? Several things:
1.God hears our prayers, even when it seems like He doesn't.
2.He will answer the prayer in His timing, which usually isn't ours.
3.God's delays are not His denials.  Don't give up trusting Him.
4.Angels know our names and where to find us.  Gabriel called them by name and later he knew exactly where to find Mary (Luke 1:26-27).
5.We must continue to faithfully serve God, even when we don't understand. Zacharias and Elizabeth continued to faithfully serve God when they didn't receive a child.  Many people turn bitter if the answer doesn't come when they expect it, but not Z & E.
6.The longer we have to wait, the better the answer will be.  The child of Zacharias and Elizabeth was John the Baptist, whom Jesus said was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.  John fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi 4:6 and was the one who paved the way for the Messiah.  John's ministry made the ministry of Jesus more effective, and that's why He needed a forerunner prophet to prepare the way.

Which brings us back to Zacharias and Elizabeth. They had no idea that their prayer for a child as a young married couple started a chain reaction of events that would change the world.  And so if you've been praying for something and God seems silent, just remember your role models, Zacharias and Elizabeth.