“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’” (Luke 1:13, ESV).
Let’s think about this for a moment. Just six verses earlier, we learn that Zechariah and Elizabeth are both “advanced in years” (v. 7). They are elderly. White hair frames their wizened faces and their steps are slow and measured. The age when childbearing naturally happens has long ago come and gone for them. It has left them, painfully, without any children. So, would this old man (as he called himself in the conversation with Gabriel) have been praying, still, for a son?
Probably not. For years, no doubt they had sought this blessing with tears, beseeching Heaven with groans that words cannot express. However, menopause mercilessly came anyway. I can only imagine that that those once passionate pleas had petered off into silent sadness. After enduring decades of heartbreaking infertility, they had most likely resigned themselves to barrenness and empty arms.
What prayer, then, was Gabriel referring to? A closer look at the Greek gives us a hint. The word for “prayer” there is deesis, and can be translated, “prayer you don’t even pray anymore.”*
What an astounding thought! The Lord is even in the business of answering prayers that we have long since stopped praying! When hope has been deferred so long that it has died within our souls, our prayers live on still in our Daddy’s heart. The eternal God has not forgotten the heart wrenching petitions that we poured out in His presence.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had long ago grieved the death of their dream for offspring. So can you imagine what a shock it must have been to see aging Elizabeth’s abdomen actually begin to swell? What overwhelming amazement must have been theirs, to feel Baby John’s little feet kicking from within her womb!
Daddy God has surprises of this same caliber planned for you. Resurrected hope is one of the many breathtaking themes of the Christmas story. Today He wants to breathe new life into prayers that have faded into silence on your lips.
Lean in and sense His heart. He deeply delights in bringing dreams to life that we have long since given up on. Is there a prayer that you once prayed with anguished tears, that you have let go of? In this moment, let this verse sink into your spirit: “Your prayer has been heard…”
*The Passion Translation, Luke and Acts, p. 11
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