YOUR PRAYER HAS BEEN HEARD
“But the angel reassured him, ‘Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer had been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you – many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.'” Luke 1:13-15a.
“Your prayer has been heard.” That must have been a shock for Zachariah. What prayer? He and Elizabeth had prayed many prayers in their long lives together. Which one was the angel referring to? Perhaps they were still awaiting answers to some of their prayers and some had long been shelved – especially their prayer for a child. You don’t keep praying for something that is long past its “sell-by-date”!
Perhaps it just wasn’t God’s will or perhaps He had forgotten that childbearing ceases after a certain time, or perhaps, God forbid, He had just not heard them. Isn’t that the way we think when God is silent on the things that we are screaming about?
Zachariah had some important lessons to learn about God that day.
Firstly, Zachariah had to learn that God’s time table and his didn’t necessarily have to coincide. God was putting their details into a much bigger picture. If that entailed a long wait for them, it was a part of their discipline in God’s kingdom. God’s silence did not mean He had not heard. It means He was working on a bigger plan and Zachariah needed the patience to wait until His bigger plan was revealed.
Secondly, he had to learn that chronological age is no deterrent to God. The fact that they were old was irrelevant; in fact is suited God’s plan because no one would doubt that it was God at work.
Thirdly, God only works in supernatural ways when there is no possibility of working through the natural. The angel made it clear to him that Elizabeth would have a child by him. This was not going to be a virgin birth like the birth of Jesus. John the Baptist was as human as anyone else. He had an important role to play in preparing the way for the Messiah, but it would be through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, not through any supernatural birth or abilities given to him by God.
We often have the false idea that God overrides the natural and arbitrarily does miracles in answer to our prayers. This is not to deny the miraculous but to put it in perspective. For instance, Jesus refused to turn stones into bread at Satan’s instigation, not only because “Daddy hadn’t told Him to”, but also because that would not have been a miracle; it would have been magic because stones have no “bread” properties.
Yet Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, using ordinary food in an extraordinary way to meet needs because there was no other way. How often do we ask God to step in and do things for which He has made us responsible? We ask Him to make us more patient in the hopes that He will suddenly fill us with patience, or some other virtue, supernaturally. Instead, He orchestrates circumstances that demand that we exercise patience, and patience grows!
The lessons Zachariah had to learn are for us too. God is writing His big story, and giving us the privilege of being a part of it if we put ourselves at His disposal. He wants us to move away from demanding His attention to willingly fitting into the bigger picture for His glory.