I sometimes wonder what it would take to rightly respond more consistently in life?
To the unexpected?
Or even the delays of our plans or dreams?
Is it a matter of knowing the right information?
Having the right background?
The right family or friends?
The right job?
Maybe the right inner disposition?
An Example to Consider
Here in Luke 1:5-20, there is a man that if anyone, you would think he would have responded rightly. Although he had been praying a particular prayer for years, he was SO doubtful that it would actually be answered, when it was, he didn’t believe it! Even when an angel of the Lord stood in front of him and announced it!
Zechariah and his wife were “well along in years” and childless. He was a priest, she also a descendant of Aaron, both described as upright in the sight of God and blameless.
Wow! That is impressive!
And to think that even as great as they were, they were not immune to the longing for an answer to prayer- something their hearts yearned for but were powerless to make happen for themselves.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 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 call him John.
He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. And, he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:5-20
Their prayer had been heard and approved!! All those long years of waiting, along with the disgrace, (verse 25) were over!
A Poor Response to Consider
But strangely enough, even with a supernatural Being delivering the news, Zechariah was quite skeptical of the whole thing.
Luke 1:18-22 describes his reaction to the long-awaited news.
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
Ok. Probably not the best response. Especially coming from a high ranking priest. But let’s examine why he may have responded in such a way. What would make a faithful man pray for years and years about something, yet doubt it to be truly answered?
First, it had been a long time since he started praying.
And like so many other things, timing mattered to the probability of this happening, in a logical sense.
Secondly, if it hadn’t happened yet, skepticism, maybe even cynicism, was doubting it would EVER happen.
Thirdly, maybe a little bitterness had set into his emotional state.
Maybe it had already been TOO long, if not in his body, in his heart and mind. Maybe he was feeling God was “too little, too late” on this particular issue. His heart may have hardened against the Lord for denying this humble request.
He may have believed this blessing would be an automatic assumption for them, and when it wasn’t, even with their upright obedience to God and their high standing in the community, this disappointment left him feeling cheated. With so many other people, younger and less “deserving” than them, having had the pleasure of this blessing, maybe Zechariah was a little annoyed at getting his hopes up NOW.
Truths to Consider
Whatever the reason for his faithless response at the wonderful answer to his prayer, I think we can all relate. Why do WE ask in the first place, if we don’t believe He will grant our request? What makes us pray for years but deep down, have the feeling of doubt over the potential?
All it takes is a little too much time to pass, too much water to flow under that bridge, and we are just as likely to feel despondent, hopeless.
What can we learn from this temptation to pray faithlessly? How can we enter this new year ready to respond in faith, as we approach the ups and downs of life and commit them to prayer?
We can remember these everlasting truths-
1) Time is not an issue to God.
Therefore, the longer wait will not have any negative impact on the probability of our prayer being answered favorably. Our Savior is the maker and controller of all things, including time. He is All-Powerful.
2) Ability is not an issue for God.
He is fully knowledgeable on what needs to happen and how to make it happen. When He can create life, something out of nothing, and raise the dead to life, what could be beyond His resources? He is All-Knowing.
3) His favor toward us is not an issue.
He has already proven His love to us. If He sent His Son to die for us while we were yet sinners, won’t He also give to us graciously in this life? He is All-Loving. Romans 5:8,
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Because God is All-powerful, All-Knowing, and All-Loving, we can pray with one aspect that should never wane- hope! These three attributes of the Lord are game-changers over any and all circumstances! They trump every issue that grieves us!
An Application to Consider
THAT is what makes our prayers full of faith! THAT is why we will not give way to doubt over what we petition our God for! I remember just three years ago, prayers I had been praying for our sons… for years. In my mind, there was no way I saw how God was going to rectify their two different situations.
No way, no how.
Too much time had passed. Too much water under the bridge…
Even being the “planner” and “fixer” that I am, I could not see a way through. In spite of all that, I just threw my hands up, somewhat sarcastically at times I will admit, and I prayed past where I could see any glimpse of possibility.
And you want to know why? Because I had hope.
Hope propelled my prayers past where my mind could reason or my heart see any potential.
I KNEW my God was All-Powerful, not bound by any means of our circumstances. Also, I KNEW He was All-Knowing, absolutely able to see a way through our mess. Finally, I KNEW He was All-Loving, totally committed to our good as it fit into His kingdom plan. Therefore, hope kept my prayers from being faithless that we would EVER see a good outcome.
A Final Thought to Consider
Today, three years later, both those situations are totally changed for the better. I still can’t figure out how it happened or what exactly solved the problems.
That is how to break free from faithless prayers, the hope of one day, “But God…” Until that day, let hope fill your prayers with the faith to believe, past where you can stand and dream.