Luke 1:13-18 -But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,  for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,  and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”  And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
Gabriel (see verse 19) visits Zechariah to announce to him that he and his up-till-now barren wife are going to have a son. They are “advanced in age” (verse 7, 18), meaning that the ability to produce children is biologically impossible. Of course nothing is impossible with God and we have seen similar things happen in the Scriptures before.
But note carefully what Gabriel says to Zechariah in verse 13. “Your prayer has been heard”. And then note what Zechariah says in verse 18. “How shall I know this?” It is clear that he has some doubts about whether what Gabriel says is true. Then why was he praying? Answer? He wasn’t. He used to. When he and Elizabeth were sexually active and menopause hadn’t set in and the sperm count was high. He prayed then. But he hasn’t prayed about this for a long time. We know it because he simply does not believe what Gabriel has told him. How long since they stopped praying about this? A year? Ten? Thirty? We do not know. But this we know. That even though it has been a long time since the prayer was made, God has not forgotten about it. He could have answered it while they were still producing all the necessary elements required for a child to be conceived, but He had a better idea.
A prayer has been put on hold. And at just the right time God declares that it is now time to answer it. And He does, in accordance with a plan hatched before He created the world.
This is just too incredible.
What have you prayed that you think God has said “no” to? God does say “no” quite often. That loved one who died is not going to come back to life. But there are other prayers that you may have forgotten, that God is simply reserving to answer when the time is right. It may get answered even after you have died. It may get answered and you never know it.
It needs to be observed here as well that it was not Zechariah’s faith that caused the prayer to be answered. There are many sellers of spiritual snake oil who want you to believe that the secret ingredient to having your prayers answered is the strength of your faith. Zechariah’s faith regarding this prayer was non-existent. There was hope and faith at one point, but not any longer. And God purposely waited that long to answer the prayer to let Zech (and us) know that it is not a matter of us, our faith, our biology, our talent … that is the deciding factor in our prayers. It is Him.
You can pray with a little faith or a lot. But you cannot pray without it. In fact, you won’t.
What a glorious picture this is of our God. The prayer was made. The prayer was heard. The time passed when it was thought possible for it to be answered. So it was scratched off the prayer list. But God is not bound by time as we are. He does not forget our prayers.
Take that today and run with it. It is a fabulous encouragement for the prayer warriors who refuse to give up in making their requests to God. It is even an encouragement to those who think that some of their prayers will never be answered. We just do not know. And that is just one of the things that astound us about Him.
What a great God.