Luke 1: 13-14
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah: your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.” NIV
Zechariah is a priest. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are both well along in years. They have presumably been married for quite some time, yet they have no children. They are both direct descendants of Aaron, whose family was charged with being the priests for the people. On this particular day, Zechariah has been chosen. The Message says in verse 9, “It came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense.” MSG
His one turn. Apparently, he would go in once, and then no more. And, it looks like the choice of who goes on which day is random. The NIV translates verse 9, “he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood.” NIV
So, he enters the sanctuary, for what will be his one and only time, chosen, he thinks randomly, to perform an important ritual, and there, he is met by the angel, Gabriel. Verse 12 says, “When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.” NIV
So, when Gabriel says in verse 13, “do not be afraid,” he is likely not talking about worry, but more trying to calm poor Zechariah’s nerves. However, he immediately adds the reminder that this verse contains, “your prayer has been heard.”
I think that this story is interesting on many levels.
Zechariah has worries. He has no children. No heir to continue his branch of the lineage of Aaron … and now, Gabriel appears and tells him that they are to have a son.
Yet, Zechariah doubts the angel. “How can I be sure of this?” he asks in verse 18, “I am an old man,” and, just to make his point, he adds that Elizabeth is pretty old, too.
Gabriel basically tells him God sent Gabriel to deliver this message and that since Zechariah doesn’t trust God’s messenger, he will be struck mute until the baby comes.
So, Zechariah goes home, literally speechless, and Elizabeth, as predicted, gets pregnant. In verse 25 she says, “The Lord has done this for me … in these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” NIV
Elizabeth has been terribly worried. Her lack of ability to bear a child for Zechariah has caused her shame in her culture.
In response to this worry and shame, she and her husband have done what we are all called to do. They have taken their worries to God in prayer. Zechariah and Elizabeth have likely been begging God for a child for many years.
“Your prayer has been heard.”
I love that. I love that God intervened to ensure that Zechariah would be chosen to enter the sanctuary. I love that he sent Gabriel to announce John’s coming. I love that John would be the one to proclaim Jesus’s arrival. Everything lined up … in God’s perfect time.
My prayers are heard. God does not ignore me. His timing is perfect and, if my desires are in line with His will, ultimately, my prayers will be answered.
But, whether my prayers are answered such that the things that I so desperately want are provided to me, or whether they are answered, “no,” or “not now,” I needn’t worry, because my prayers are always, always heard.
That’s what I’ll think about today.