Suddenly, Prayer is Answered, Part 1 (Praying Through the Bible #158)

TEXT: Luke 1:5-13

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,

9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

We are in a series of messages titled “Praying Through the Bible: A Series on Every Passage and Verse Regarding Prayer in the Bible.” The purpose of this series is to encourage and motivate you to pray to the God of the Bible. We highlighted each of these over 500 verses and passages in the Prayer Motivator Devotional Bible. So far, we have completed 157 messages in this series.

This is message #158 titled, The Angel and an Answered Prayer, Part 1

What is the longest time you have ever waited for an answer to prayer? Have you ever been tempted to stop praying for something because the answer was a long time coming? In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we meet an elderly man named Zacharias who had a long-term prayer request. The Bible informs us that he and his wife, Elisabeth, did not have any children.

Back in those days, children were seen as a blessing from God — and the more children you had, the more blessed you were. Zacharias and Elisabeth experienced the stigma that went along with not having any children. As you can imagine, this area of their life was a matter of deep concern, so they made it a matter of prayer. They prayed for many years that God would bless them with a child. But the Bible informs us that Elisabeth remained “barren” and that now, they were both old and “well stricken in years.” Probably by this time, Zacharias and Elisabeth had given up on the possibility that they would have a child to carry on the family name. Maybe they had come to terms with the idea that parenthood was just not in the cards for them. So, you can imagine the shock that Zacharias feels when an angel appears to him as he is carrying out his priestly duties, and says, “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”

Now, let’s shed some light on what Zacharias was doing in the Temple on this particular morning when an angel came to inform him that his prayer would be answered. As a member of the tribe of Levi, Zacharias was dedicated to the service of God as it centered, in those days, around Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. Every morning and every evening, an incense offering was offered up in the Temple. Hundreds of devout Jews attended these events to pray and worship God. One of the Levite priests was selected by lot to be the one who would enter the Holy Place, offer up the incense, and pray on behalf of the people of Israel. Because, as scholars tell us, there were as many as 20,000 Levites during that time, this was a very special responsibility and one that was not taken lightly. A Levite, who was chosen to offer incense in the Holy Place, was very serious about his task. It is highly likely that this was the only time in Zacharias’ life when he was chosen for this task.

One of the things we notice about Zacharias and Elisabeth is that “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” They were faithful in their religious duties. They did not let the lack of an answer to their prayer for a child to discourage them from serving God. The fact that they were still faithfully serving in their old age shows us that they maintained faith and confidence in God, even though they did not get what they wanted when they wanted it.

I wonder how many of us would have done the same? When it seemed as though God was not going to give us something that we earnestly desired, would we pout and give up on God because we can’t get what we want? Or would we leave the outcome of our prayers in God’s hands and continue to trust and obey Him? Perhaps, one of the reasons why God blessed Zacharias and Elisabeth in their old age is because they had such a positive reaction when it seemed like God was saying “no” to their prayer request. Matthew Henry said, “Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given. Prayers made when we were young and coming into the world may be answered when we are old and going out of the world.”

This seems to be what happened to Zacharias. As he was faithfully offering incense and praying in the Holy Place in the Temple, an angel appeared to him and said, “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard.” Some scholars have noted that this affirmation that Zacharias’ prayer was heard by God is actually a three-fold response.

1. God had heard the long-term prayers of Zacharias and his wife for a child.

2. God had heard the current prayer of Zacharias on behalf of the children of Israel.

3. God had heard the united prayer of the people of Israel who had gathered at the Temple to pray, many of whom would be praying for the coming of the Messiah. Remember, verse 10 tells us that “the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.”

Isn’t it interesting that the angel didn’t just come out and say, “Your prayers are answered”? Rather, he said, “Your prayers are heard.” Sometimes, we need to be reminded that we serve a prayer-hearing God. We serve a God who inclines his ear to the prayers of His saints. Psalm 65:2 says, “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” Just as in the case with Zacharias and Elisabeth, He may not answer our prayers right away, but we can rest assured that He hears them.The older saints in the black church use to say: He may not come when you think He ought to come, but He is always right on time.

Zacharias received a late-in-life answer to a long-term prayer request. Certainly, he and Elisabeth couldn’t understand why God didn’t answer that request. But, the lesson for us today is that they remained faithful to God. They decided to trust God and obey God over the course of many years. Little did they know, God had a special plan for them. He had heard their prayer, and He answered it — not by just giving them a child, but a very special child — John the Baptist — of whom Jesus Christ said, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.

Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell, and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You have done the most important thing in life. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.


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