God Is Listening
When Zechariah saw [the angel], 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.” Luke 1:13
Christians worldwide have been praying that God will be merciful and end the COVID-19 pandemic. But week after week, as the number of cases and deaths rise, you may be asking, “Is God ignoring the prayers of his people?”
Long ago, a priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, may have wondered why God hadn’t answered their prayers for a child. Luke records that “both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6–7).
Blameless but childless. Righteous but unrewarded. How many times had the couple begged God to answer their prayers? And, worse, how often had other people accused the couple of unrighteous behavior because they were childless? After all, the Mosaic law said that children were a blessing of obedience (Exodus 23:26; Deuteronomy 7:14).
When the angel Gabriel appeared in the temple, maybe Zechariah was fearful because he thought Gabriel brought word of God’s judgment. Or maybe the angel’s appearance was as frightening as the cherubim the prophet Ezekiel saw (see Ezekiel 1).
Gabriel attempted to calm Zechariah with the amazing news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The elderly priest, however, responded with disbelief instead of joy (1:18). Because Zechariah doubted God’s word, Gabriel said he would speechless until his son, John, was circumcised (vv. 20, 59–64).
John’s birth reminds us that God’s delays have purpose even when they seem inexplicable. God listened to every one of Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayers, and he always intended to give the devout couple a child. The issue was timing, not their obedience. Their son would be the prophet who prepared the way for the Messiah, so John couldn’t have been born until the time was right for Jesus to come.
The consequences Zechariah endured because of his doubt remind us to rely on God’s faithfulness and goodness as we wait for his answers. We can depend on his word even if a situation seems impossible.
Just as God heard Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayers, he hears yours. How can you demonstrate that you are trusting him, not doubting him, as you wait for his perfect timing?
Read Jesus’s words in Luke 11:5–13. What does this passage suggest about persistent prayer?
What promise is given in 1 John 5:14–15? What condition is given in verse 14? How do we know what is “according to his will”? Consider the counsel and Scriptures given in this article: Praying the Will of God
Denise K. Loock
This devotion is part of our series, “Do Not Be Afraid.”