Have you ever noticed that sometimes your prayers don’t seem to be answered? That they seem to get lost in the wind? Elizabeth must have thought so, too.
She grew up looking forward to having children, especially a son. In her time and country a childless woman was looked down upon as inferior, lower status. And status was everything.
So when she married, her teenage expectations ran high. But year after childless year rolled by. Into her 20′s, 30′s, 40′s . . . and still no child. How she longed for a child! She prayed, she cried, she agonized, like the biblical Hannah of old, but still God seemed to turn a deaf ear.
Finally it was too late. There would be no child. Her and her husband’s name would not live on. There was no use now to pray for a child, for it was impossible. Her hopes were destroyed.
But the amazing thing is that through the decades of her private agony, she and her husband remained faithful to God, obedient to His will. Even when she could not understand. Even when God turned a deaf ear to the one thing she wanted most in life.
On top of her personal trouble, times were tough. Her country was ruled by a foreign power. She and her people were not free, and were reminded of it every time they set foot out of their homes. Religion of the day seemed empty and meaningless, filled with rules but devoid of relationship. Religious leaders lacked a shepherd’s love for their people. Consequently, people lost sight of who God was. Crime was on the increase, and organizations developed to overthrow the foreign government. Elizabeth’s country seemed as barren spiritually as she was physically. The devout cried out for deliverance, but it did not come.
Let’s stop for a moment. Have you ever prayed for something you wanted more than life itself – but your prayer wasn’t answered? Maybe you prayed for the healing of a loved one, and the person died. Maybe you cried out for financial survival and instead, you endured poverty. Maybe you pleaded to fulfill a life dream, but it came crashing down around you instead. What do you do then?
Some people give up on God and walk away from Him. Some stop believing in His love. Some cease to pray since it “didn’t work” anyway.
Others go back to God in their grief and sorrow, and hang on while the waves crash around them. They may question, they may be angry, but they hold on anyway, knowing underneath all the emotion that God loves them and has not deserted them.
Elizabeth’s story has a surprise ending. God answered the prayers of not only Elizabeth and Zacharias, but of Israel as well. You can read their story in Luke 1:5-25.
Nothing erased Elizabeth’s decades of sorrow. God did not answer her prayers as she wanted Him to. But He answered in a larger way than she expected.
God seems to have a bigger agenda than just our individual requests. He cares about every tiny thing that happens to us. But He answers in ways that He knows is best in the long run. When He answered Elizabeth’s prayers for a son, He also answered the prayers of the devout in Israel as well. Her child was bound up in the destiny of the nation. Her son was not just hers, but God’s – and Israel’s. This was a much bigger answer to Elizabeth’s prayer then she expected!
I believe that God works in our lives this way, as well. We may not see or understand what He is doing, and we may have to wait a long time, but as we continue to be “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6), He will answer our prayers in ways we could never dream.
What are your thoughts?