I like God’s three answers to your prayers: 1. Yes. 2. Not Yet. 3. I have something better in mind. We serve and worship a God in which nothing is impossible ~ Amen. I sometimes think the only answer to prayer is number three: “I have something better in mind.” God always hears our prayers in the context of our limited knowledge, limited vision, and he creates something better. We may become discouraged, we may not understand, maybe we don’t recognize the answered prayer ~ there is an old family story from my grandfather that officiated at a wedding many decades ago, instead of giving him an honorarium as was the custom to say thank you, the couple gave my grandfather a pair of white gloves. He accepted them, stuck the gloves in his seldom worn coat pocket, and forgot about them. Sometime later when he wore the coat again he rediscovered the white gloves. As he pulled out the gloves and examined them, he discovered a $5.00 bill in each finger, a huge sum in those days. Sometimes we don’t recognize the blessings of answered prayer.
God will answer… “Your prayer has been heard.” What is your response?
Children seem to innately know God hear’s our prayers: A 4-year-old boy who was asked to pray before Christmas dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. He began his prayer, thanking God for all his friends, naming them one by one. Then he thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, brother, sister, Grandma, Grandpa, and all his aunts and uncles. Then he began to thank God for the food. He gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the fruit salad, the cranberry sauce, the pies, the cakes, even the Cool Whip. Then he paused, and everyone waited--and waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, "If I thank God for the broccoli, won't he know that I'm lying?"
Zechariah’s response to the angel’s announcement of answered prayer: disbelief. Too good to be true. Zechariah prays and now when the prayer is answered positively he doubts. “How can I be sure of this?” (Luke 1:18). I have a prayer request Lord, but I know you can’t do it. It’s too big. On the one hand we know God can do anything, but on the other hand we doubt. Like doubting Thomas who insists on seeing with his own eyes and touching the resurrected Christ himself before he believes. It can’t be true, Zechariah says. “It’s too good, I’m too old, my wife is too old.” God answers prayer and we find reasons to doubt…
I like the attitude of the man in his nineties who went to the doctor with knew trouble. The doctor said, “at your age, what do you expect?” “I expect you to fix this knew,” he said, “my other knee is the same age, and it works just fine!” God can do anything! Even answer the most wild prayers.
Zechariah is struck mute for his unbelief: READ Luke 1:20. Seems kind of harsh, doesn’t it? Actually, this is effectively what happens to all of us every time we doubt God, every time we question God, every time we decide that whatever we most desire can’t happen. Zechariah was literally unable to speak, but when we choose not to speak, we, too, say nothing.
We say nothing. You can do better than Zechariah: pour out your heart to God, ask his blessings upon that which you know is within his will, for life, for restoration, for completeness, for wholeness, whatever it is… God will answer. So now start talking. Tell the world that you’ve taken your request to God and he has heard your prayer. Tell your family what the prayer is on your heart. Tell your friends the good news that God hears prayer and he answers. You may not know what the answer will look like exactly, but you know it is good, you know it is better than what you even expect.
Shout your request to the world. Here’s a little joke about a boy that kind of knows it is a good idea to shout out your prayer requests: A little boy was kneeling beside his bed with his mother and grandmother and softly saying his prayers, "Dear God, please bless Mummy and Daddy and all the family and please give me a good night's sleep." Suddenly he looked up and shouted, "And don't forget to give me a bicycle for Christmas!!"
"There is no need to shout like that," said his mother. "God isn't deaf."
"No," said the little boy, "but Grandma is."
Zechariah did not believe and so he was unable to speak, unable to share the blessing, unable to tell the people the good news that his prayer was answered, but even if he wasn’t struck supernaturally mute, he would not have been able to share the blessing anyway because he chose not to believe. Share with the people you love what’s on your heart and the most amazing prayers that God is answering.
I went to the Nut House a few days ago [the restaurant]. Harold Markham was there. His wife died a month or so ago. He shared with me how God was with him during it all, how he could see God preparing both Caroline and him for her death, the right timing, the blessings, the resisting of the devil in his life trying to pull him away from God. If you know Harold, ask him for yourself, he is so open to sharing the good news of what he has seen God do in his life and in Caroline’s last days.
The problem is that the result of the prayer is often delayed… READ Luke 1:20b. The delay may be a major stumbling block leading us to disbelief. God may delay His response to prayer, but He never forgets. The Lord’s timing is always with a purpose. Maybe it’s for a time of refining, a seasoning, like the stew that is better the second day after it’s sat for a day or two. A lost job, an alienated child, a spouse that has passed away ~ God has not forgotten.
As we wait on the Lord’s provision, old prayers gain new meaning. What was once lost is found, what was once hurt is healed and what was once hopeless brings joy. Acceptance of the present while you wait for that for which you long, is a time to cherish. How many people look back on a time of poverty and see God’s hand in their life, a time of growing in faith, dependency, reordering priorities. “Your prayers have been answered… [and] will come true at their proper time.” God’s blessings follow a sequence that only later make sense. We only see in part, we want the prayer to come to fruition right now, but God sees the whole, the right timing, for his greater purposes. What’s the big prayer on your heart? Whatever it is, it is not for you alone, but it must serve a greater purpose, so give it to God.
Zechariah says the prayer is too good to be true, he argues with the angel and so is supernaturally struck dumb, unable to speak. Elizabeth has a different response: READ Luke 1:23-25. You could argue that Elizabeth has the advantage because she responds after she finds out she is pregnant ~ are you kidding? Zechariah has a conversation with an angel sent directly from God and doubts… they both got the news at different times in different ways in different circumstances, but I cannot agree Elizabeth has the advantage. Zechariah doubts and Elizabeth is amazed: too good to be true, yet it is true. Elizabeth recognizes the Lord has answered her prayer and given her dignity, given her a sense of rightness. Some people are born pessimists and others are born optimists ~ able to see God’s blessings when prayers are answered. When you are amazed at answered prayer, when you leave your big prayers to God to answer in his timing, when you recognize God’s authority to answer your prayer with something even better than what you pray, the result is a sense of dignity “he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace.” A sense that all is right with the world. What a tremendous gift the Lord is offering you ~ for some of you the greatest need you have is to find rest in your soul.
What’s the prayer of your heart? The prayer you don’t even dare speak aloud because you don’t think God will really answer it. The prayer that is too big?
The Lord always answers prayer: Yes, wait, or I have something better in mind. Our prayers are always answered in God’s divine timing because he sees the big picture. In the case of Zechariah and Elizabeth, he delayed the timing because John is the the forerunner of the birth of Jesus. God always has his purposes that are greater than yours. When you pray let your family know, let your friends know, let the world know that God has heard your prayers. Zechariah prayed and didn’t believe God would answer, so he was unable to speak. Elizabeth was confirmed that her prayer was answered, she spoke the blessing, and she was given dignity, wholeness. Elizabeth’s prayer was answered before it was even made complete. What is the big prayer God has placed on your heart, the prayer you might think is too good to become true? Give your problems to God believing he can bring about greater things than what you can imagine.
In prayer, tell God the desires of your heart, be amazed, tell the world, and you, too, will find your heart settled even before the answer is fully revealed. God wants to give you something that is too good to be true. Amen.