He Hears Our Prayers: Luke 1:5-25

Focus Passage: Luke 1:5-25 (NIV)

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 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.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 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. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 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. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 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.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 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. 20 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.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 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.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Read Luke 1:5-25 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

After Luke begins his gospel with a formal greeting, instead of sharing Jesus’ back story and His birth story, Luke goes even further and chooses to focus on the birth of Jesus’ forerunner in ministry, John the Baptist. While John’s birth is not as miraculous as Jesus’ birth, it was a birth that God did have His hand in.

While reading this event, a phrase jumped out at me that has important implications for everyone who has chosen to include prayer as part of their lives.  When Zechariah entered the temple to burn incense, he realized he was not the only one in that inner room of the temple – an angel appeared to him standing beside the alter. “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.” (v. 12-13)

While we are quick to move through this story and get to the promise of the angel, and Zechariah’s doubt, too often we miss a key phrase at the beginning of the angel’s message. After calming Zechariah’s nerves as much as possible by saying, “Do not be afraid,” the very first part of the angel’s message is, “Your prayer has been heard.” (v. 13)

This is important, because all too often, when we pray, we may wonder or doubt if God really hears us. If God chooses not to answer us, or if He determines that the time isn’t right for us to receive a response, we may wonder if God really has heard us. It is in this first part of the angel’s message to Zechariah that each of us can see that God really does hear our prayers. It was years, and maybe even decades that this elderly couple had prayed for a child, and perhaps they had long since given up now that they were old.

But whether our prayer was spoken 5 minutes ago or even 5 years ago, God has heard it, and He has been working (and perhaps waiting for the right time) to give us the best possible answer for us. God hears our prayers, and He answers them at the perfect time and in the perfect way from His kingdom perspective – the perspective that results in the greatest number of people being saved for eternity.

Zechariah’s prayers didn’t fall on deaf ears. Instead, God was waiting for the perfect time to give him an answer.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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