We left Zechariah yesterday just stepping up to the Altar of Incense.
I like to put myself in the story and imagine him slightly trembling at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to creep closer than all but a handful of Israelites to the Holy Presence of God Almighty.
Perhaps he was already a little afraid.
Maybe his heart was racing and his palms sweaty. He most certainly recognized the privilege and responsibility as he offered the fragrant smoke and many prayers.
And how like a human heart to hand up its desires in the midst of corporate pleas for mercy, justice and grace!
But it seems Zechariah didn’t expect an answer. Certainly not the one he received.
11 All at once an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing just to the right of the altar of incense.
12 Zechariah was startled and overwhelmed with fear. 13 But the angel reassured him, saying, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God is showing grace to you. For I have come to tell you that your prayer[c] for a child has been answered. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son and you are to name him John. 14 His birth will bring you much joy and gladness. Many will rejoice because of him. 15 He will be one of the great ones in the sight of God. He will drink no wine or strong drink, but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even while still in his mother’s womb. 16 And he will persuade many in Israel to convert and turn back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go before the Lord as a forerunner, with the same power and anointing as Elijah the prophet. He will be instrumental in turning the hearts of the fathers in tenderness back to their children and the hearts of the disobedient back to the wisdom of their righteous fathers. And he will prepare a united people[f] who are ready for the Lord’s appearing.”
Luke 1: 11-17 TPT
I can imagine the years and years Zechariah and Elizabeth fell asleep praying God would grant them a child. I can just picture Elizabeth outside in the Temple courtyard adding her longing and hoping, hoping, hoping Zechariah would dare to bring their personal plea before the Most Holy God.
The angel not only promised Zechariah a child, he promised him a child OF promise-one whose birth had been foretold. This would be no ordinary son. He was to be the forerunner and path-maker for the Christ!
No wonder Zechariah had a few questions.
I’ve had questions too.
Prayer after child loss has been hard for me.
Before Dom ran ahead to Heaven, I was a seriously praying woman. I kept prayer journals, wrote individual prayer cards for people I loved and knew and was a fervent believer in God’s faithful answers-even if they were long in coming. I had personally experienced the power of earnest prayer to make way in the heavenlies.
I never asked for a life of ease, only life and the grace to greet each day.
So when one of my most oft-repeated and (what I felt was very basic) prayers went unanswered, it shook me to the core. Why was my son not kept safe?
It’s taken a long time for my heart to rest again in what seem like straightforward promises of Scripture and to venture tentatively toward the Throne of Grace expecting any favors.
God does answer.
But like Zechariah, long years of waiting and disappointment have made me more than a little surprised when He does.
- Do you pray? Why or why not?
- Do you expect God to answer when you pray? (Not audibly but through circumstances, people, His word.)
- How has loss changed your prayer life (if it has changed it)?
- How do you feel when it feels like God doesn’t hear your heart?
- Have you ever waited long only to be surprised by God’s ultimate intervention or answer to your prayer?
- What are you longing for that you need to bring before the Throne of Grace today?
- Does Zechariah’s story encourage you?
Lord, You are the Most High God. You know the beginning from the end and hold time in Your hands.
It is so, so hard for me to wait patiently for answers. And, frankly, some of the answers are not blessings but heartache.
I’m wary about bringing my requests to You because while I know You have the power to grant them, You also have the power to delay or deny them. So I am sometimes surprised when You answer. I’m often amazed at how You weave together the ordinary with the extraordinary and how Your eternal plans are always being worked out.
Help my heart lean in and take hold of Your hand. Help me trust in Your unfailing love and abundant grace. And give me bold courage to step forward with open hands, bringing my requests to You, resting in the fact that whether the answer is “yes”, “no” or “wait” it is for my ultimate good and Your glory.
6 thoughts on “Advent: Surprised By God’s Answer”
This post reminds me of the nostvfaithful.prayer in the Bible. “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”. Nearly 2 years out from my son’s death by suicide, I don’t know how to pray when I did, all my life. I am lost. I can kind of work through an acceptance that God knew his soul needed to come home. I can rest in God knows…kind of. But I struggle w being so forgotten by friends and family and our church in grief. God must know how broken I am, how much I need nurture and instead I am pulled in so many directions, raking care of my other children, reaching out to other who are struggling. Why doesn’t God send me this comfort? Please share what you did to wrestle w these thoughts…I don’t want to stay in this place feeling so far from God.
Sending hugs to you. I am in the same place, now 9 months after my son’s suicide. I haven’t been back to church since then, except for his memorial service, and need to find my way back. We also sold our house and moved just 4 weeks before David died. For the most part, I’m glad we’re not in the house we bought when I was pregnant with David, but we hadn’t established a new church community yet when David died. This first Christmas is heartbreakingly difficult.
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I find it difficult to find the words to pray but I do trust and even more so since Luke chose to go on ahead.
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I am more and more grateful that the Spirit can pray for us when all we have are sighs and groans. Once I worked through my questions, I’ve found I am much more settled and confident in God’s character and faithful love.
I’m loving the Jesse Tree! ❤
Thank you for sharing. I, too struggle with prayer almost two years out from my worst fear as a Mother. Why did not God protect my son from that terrible car accident? My cautious, careful kid. My kid who at 17 had his future laid out in front of him. My daughter referred to Kyle as our golden child. Was God protecting Kyle from something? I wish I knew that answer. I do still pray for others but I have a hard time speaking prayer now. I think my confidence is shaken. I still live with hope and the knowledge that God knows our unspoken prayers. I have to believe that His plans are better than our plans.
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Thank you for your posts. Speaks straight to my heart