In Luke 1, we are introduced to a priest named Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth.
It says 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” (verses six and seven). That last part about them not having a child is significant. That was a big deal back then.
One day when Zachariah was serving at the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared and said, “Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John” (verse 13).
The part that I find interesting here is that Gabriel says, “Your prayer has been heard.” When was that prayer prayed? There are only two options and both of them having something to teach us.
It could be that they were still praying for a child even though they were well past the normal child-bearing age. Maybe the prayer that is being answered is one that Zachariah prayed that morning. If that is the case, I am amazed!
It is easy to pray for something one time. It is a little less easy to keep praying for something when you do not see the answer immediately. It is another thing to “always pray and not give up” as Jesus encouraged us to do (see Luke 18:1). If it is true that they just kept praying and praying, even though it looked hopeless, and then God answered their prayer, then that is a good story. I suspect, though, that is not what happened.
It is more likely that they prayed and prayed for years and then, when it seemed like it would not and could not happen, they simply gave up. Look at Zachariah’s reaction to the announcement. He says, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (verse 18).
To me, that does not sound like the response of a man who had prayed for a baby just that morning. It is completely possible that God was answering the prayer that they quit praying 20 years ago.
God does things in his own way and in his own time. Isaiah 55 tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. In other words, things will happen when God thinks they ought to happen.
So if you have been praying and praying for something and have not seen the answer yet, don’t give up. Maybe the best answer will come when you least expect it.