And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him,and fear fell upon him. 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 1:12-13
A couple of weeks ago I was preaching on "Christmas Fear" and looking at some of the Christmas story characters from the Scriptures. I read the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the elderly parents of John the Baptist. Zechariah was serving as a priest in the Temple when an angel appeared to him to tell him he would soon be a father. Naturally Zechariah was troubled and the angel assured him, saying:
“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) What caught my attention was the phrase, "for your prayer has been heard." My first thought was, "What prayer?"
Scripture doesn't record Zechariah's prayer for us, but the context of the Scripture indicates that he had been praying for a child, particularly a son. We also don't know how long he had been praying for a child, but he was an older man when this happened, so we can assume he had been praying this prayer for many years.
What would have happened in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth if God had answered their request for a baby immediately? What if God had said "Yes" earlier in their lives? They would have gotten a sweet little baby that they would have loved and cherished. But God delayed the request for a number of years, and then when He answered, He gave them John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus Christ, the only prophet to see the prophecies of Jesus fulfilled, and the forerunner of the Messiah.
Sometimes God doesn't answer our prayers when we pray them, because He has something better in mind. He has a bigger plan and purpose and He can see the end from the beginning. If God had answered some of my prayers exactly as I’d asked them, I would have gotten shortchanged. His answers were much greater than my requests.
This is a great reason to keep praying, and not give up. God has something better in mind for us, we just have to trust Him with the outcome of our prayers, and trust His timing.