How long?

“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” (Luke 1:13 KJV)

As I have heard this story told throughout the years, I hear about Zacharias’s surprise at seeing an angel. I hear about his doubt. I hear about him being muted and then released later. I hear about the joy of celebrating before the Lord for an answered prayer. The one question I do not recall hearing is, how long had it been since Zacharias and Elizabeth stopped praying for a son? I ask this question as it is most fitting for the actual response that Zacharias gave in verse eighteen. “Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.” If Zacharias had been praying even just that week for a son, would not his response be more reflective of thanksgiving that someone had finally heard his request? That someone knew what his heart’s desire is and has come to finally make it so? Perhaps Zacharias did believe in full what the angel was speaking, but with the wisdom that he had accumulated over the years of false hopes and dead ends; he was just asking for some kind of assurance that this was not yet another empty promise.

It is an especially difficult situation to be in because it is among the most unmanageable. On the one hand, we are taught persistence in prayer (remember the parable of the unjust judge). On the other, we are told by everything around us, that after a certain amount of time, that we probably ought to just drop it. Either we are being too bull headed or not realistic or living in Heaven and not on Earth or even to just give it a rest. At what point does persistence morph into idiocy? One might argue that a similar dilemma faced Jesus directly. “And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Matthew 4:3 KJV) Beyond the arrogance of wanting Jesus to perform and trying to direct Jesus as to what He ought to do… Do you think after 40 days without bread that He may have thought that this is crazy and that He just needs to make something to eat before He dies without achieving what He was sent for? It is more than a temptation to just drop it and move on. It is a real quandary of not knowing if we should hold out just a little longer or stop obstructing the very path God is trying to move us down.

In the case of the temptation that Jesus was facing, He reached out to the Word. He knew it. He quoted it. He understood what it meant and how it was applicable to the challenge He was facing. That gives us an excellent example to follow. In the case of Zacharias, I do not know how much a clearer understanding of the Word would have met the prayer request any sooner. Yet whether you have the power to make something happen, or you do not and are stuck with waiting it out; both cases are equally surrendered to God. I have written previously in the article Unspoken of the wonder of how God uses Zacharias’s muteness, but there is a reminder in this story for us to never loose our focus and communication with God. He never forgets about the requests that we lift up; no matter how far back they are.

“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” (Luke 11:2 KJV)

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