Saturday, August 24, 2013

I am afraid nothing will change

I thought about the lesson, and knew I couldn't relate. What prayer had I prayed for a long time? What prayer had gone unanswered, or did God seem silent about? As I walked into the kitchen my mind thought for sure there had been none, until it felt as if I had walked into a wall.

Tears filled my eyes as I remembered that broken part of my heart. Oh, it's so easy to ignore it when you think it will never change. It's so easy to pretend it away. When prayers and cries seem to go unheeded what more can you do to stay sane in the world?

But maybe that's not the way to deal with it after all. Because in this past week alone I have been angry as all get out over this unanswered prayer. Angry at people and God. Angry at circumstances and choices.

You see, this request that I hide in my heart affects no one but a small circle around me. It is not for world peace, or even the salvation of one I know. It is not to release those in captivity, though maybe in a way it is. But it's personal, and so it feels selfish, and it definitely feels too small to matter sometimes. Not that I haven't prayed. I have prayed a storm at different times. But the answer seems to be no.

You see, I have no miraculous explanation of why there has seemingly been silence on this matter, and sometimes the voices do tell me that it's because it simply doesn't matter. That what aches my heart is not a big deal, and I just need to get over it. That nothing is ever going to change, and so I need to learn to accept how things are.

But Zechariah taught me something. He taught me that my God does see and hear even the smallest cries of my heart. He taught me that I do matter, even considering the big scheme of things. He taught me that even if nothing changes, God loves me and He knows the circumstances.

I would love to say that I am praying once again for the change I want, but maybe instead I'll simply talk to God about the situation and trust He will use it for my good. And He will get the glory no matter what.

The fear our request is too small

Luke 1:13
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 give him the name John.”

I have heard others say it before. “A ‘no’ may simply mean a ‘yes’ for something better later.” It brings hope when I see it fulfilled in the life of others, but I often wonder in the moment of understanding, how hard is it to grasp what is going on?

Zechariah had a bit of a time grasping what Gabriel said. It makes me smile that in everything Gabriel said it was the fact that he would have a son which was questioned. But in all reality, it makes sense. The hope for a child seems small compared to the hope for a Messiah, does it not? And when someone says your child will be the forerunner for the Messiah, the Elijah to come, then we deal with what we can understand. If the smallest part of this doesn’t come true, then how can we believe the largest part of it will?

Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were righteous before the sight of God, were both Levites, and were childless well into their old age. While the hope of Sarah, Rachel, and others who had gone before probably still had a place in their heart, it had most likely grown dormant at this stage of their lives. Did they still pray for a child? A Son? Did they wonder if they would receive the miracle of a child in old age, or had they given up completely only to forget the dream and grieve the lack? We can never know for certain. We can only know that after Elizabeth was with child she counted it a favor from God and a removal of disgrace.

I don’t know how you know whether or not the answer to a long prayed prayer is “no” or “not yet.” Is there ever a sign from the Lord which draws a line in the sand making you aware it’s time to step away from the heart prayer? It may not be for a child, but it may. It may also be for a ministry, a spouse, a relationship gone awry, or the heart of a friend. Our prayers go long and hard for a while, but often silence means no to us and we move on.

I can’t promise you that what you are praying for will happen for certain, but what I can promise you is that God hears your prayers. And the prayer you think may be too small to be noticed, is seen clearly.

Question 1: Do you have a heart cry which you have forgotten? Is there something you have given up on which you feel would take a miracle for the prayer to be answered?

Question 2: Do you have a prayer which seems important to you but too small to matter? Can you trust God hears and He sees regardless of the answer?

Dear Heavenly Father
We cry out to you
We know only you can solve our heart pain
We trust you can hear us
We trust you will be with us
Regardless of the outcome we thank you
For the reminder that you never forget us

Friday, August 23, 2013

Zechariah's Fear

Zechariah most likely found himself astonished as his name was drawn from the lot. He was to be the one to offer the incense at the altar. He was aware of the privilege even though it was something he was raised to do. Being a Levite, as was his wife, his job was to take care of the temple, offer the incense, and lead the people. However, with so many priests available at this time he knew the chance was slim that he would serve even one time in his life.

As the other Levites and he entered into the holy space, the prayers of the people softened behind him. The other two quickly did their job and silently left him in the space alone. His heart was for his people. His heart was for his God. And yet things had not happened as he thought they would. There had been no prophets for so long: would a Messiah come soon? He knew his job in that moment was to pray for his nation and his Messiah, that restoration and redemption would be possible; not only for the Israelites but also the whole world. As he closed his eyes and called to the High God, the One and Only, his heart thought back on his life as well. When he opened his eyes fear struck through his heart at the sight of a man standing near him in the holy space.

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard.”

Zechariah realized this was no ordinary man, but a messenger of God. As the angel continued with the message, the shock and awe wore off a little and he grasped what was being said. There was still hope? Hope not only for the Messiah to come soon but also for a son? “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

luke 1 13

Luke 1:13

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 give him the name John." (NIV)
But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John." (The Message)
But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zachariah, because your petition was heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you must call his name John [God is favorable]. (Amplified)

Reformation Study Bible -
- This may have been a prayer for a son, but more probably at such a moment it was prayer for the redemption of Israel.

Matthew Henry's Commentary -
- Zechariah's work was not the high priest burning incense on the day of atonement...but it is plain that it was the burning of the daily incense at the altar of incense.
- the incense could not be accepted at the altar without prayer

IVP New Testament Commentary -
- this announcement is unusual in that the father was told, not the mother
- Since he had given up believing that God would give him a child, his prayer has probably been focused on the nation's hope. Nonetheless, the child will also fulfill the personal desire of Zechariah and Elizabeth, being a cause of joy and delight for them and for many in the nation. So God is tackling two requests at once, one national and the other personal, a prayer that had long been abandoned and all but forgotten.
- Everything about these events shows that they hark back to the great era of old, but reveal an escalation of God's work and thus the approach of a new era.

Adam Clark -
- If fervent faithful prayers be not immediately answered, they should not be considered as lost

David Guzik's Commentary -
- Zechariah serving in the temple: this would be the biggest event of his life, a tremendous privilege, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity