This is the text of my Facebook Live devotional today:
Lent – forgotten prayers
In my daily Bible reading a week ago on the first day of this season of Lent, something jumped off the page at me from Luke chapter 1, even thought I’d read it many times before. Let’s start with the first verse:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is 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 in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also 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. He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord.”
And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” Luke 1:5-18 NKJV
I’m sure you noticed that twice in the space of a dozen verses we’re told that both Zachariah and Elisabeth were “well advanced in years”. Here’s what I had never considered before: does it make sense that an old man whose wife was also elderly, would have been currently praying for a child? I could be wrong, but as I read that passage, it struck me that Zacharias had probably prayed that prayer as a young priest….maybe even as a 40 or 45 or even 50-year old priest….but it certainly seems unlikely to me that he would have continued asking God for a baby as both he and Elizabeth grew old.
Yet the first words from Gabriel assured him that God had heard his prayer, even though it seems likely to me that it was years after he had prayed that prayer!
Maybe it struck me that way because I know how I sometimes pray in earnest for something for a season, but if my prayer isn’t answered, I often move on to other needs or wants, instead of persisting in prayer.
But as I read Gabriel’s message, I had a real sense that God wants to answer prayers that we may have already forgotten about. Just because it didn’t happen when you wanted it to, or thought it would, doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen! As we’ve all heard before, delay is not denial!
All of Chicagoland rejoiced in 2016 when the Cubs finally won a world series, but as I pondered these verses in Luke, I happened to remember the White Sox championship in 2005 (after all, we are south siders, right?), when their theme song was an anthem by the musical group “Journey”, called “Don’t Stop Believin’!” To be honest, I don’t follow baseball much these days, and I don’t know anything about Journey, so this is not an endorsement of the band or the song, but I do know the truth of that song – CLC’ers, Don’t Stop Believin! Don’t stop praying! Because God does hear & answer, even if not always on our timetable!
I want to encourage you today and in the days leading up to Easter, to ‘resurrect’ some of those dreams and desires that you’ve sought God for in the past. They may not have been answered yet, but KNOW THIS: HE has heard your prayer and your answer may be just around the bend! Don’t stop believing! Don’t stop praying!