When Prayer Seems Unanswered

Have you ever felt like your prayer was going unanswered? Maybe an on-going situation or need for God’s provision? I remember a particular time in my life when I really wondered what the silence meant. I struggled to reconcile the promises of scripture with what appeared to be no response from God, but in reality, He was working things out all long. I just couldn’t see it until later. 

There is a beautiful story in the Bible of two people who also struggled with the silence…Zacharias and Elizabeth. Luke 1:5-25 tells the story. They bore daily shame as a childless couple, living in a culture that taught having no children was due to sin. Luke mentions that they were both righteous before God (v.6) and had prayed for a child (v.13). What’s more, it must have been additionally tough to have a name like “Zacharias” meaning “Jehovah has remembered again”. 

I’m sure in the middle of those days, they experienced much anxiety over what it all meant. Then it happened…an angel appears to Zacharias and gives him the incredible news that Elizabeth would bare a child in her old age. What a great reminder of how God works! Simply put, He does things as He chooses and in His time. Here are three encouraging things I see in the story: 

  • Heavenly Activity is Going on Regardless of our Awareness – Luke 1:6 says they were not only righteous, but walked blamelessly regarding commandments and ordinances. They were being observed daily from God’s perspective and their prayer was most certainly not forgotten, it was heard! While they faithfully went about their daily life, God was working a plan. We often see that in scripture, like Moses herding sheep while the fire in the bush began to glow bright or a man counting change at his tax collecting booth as Jesus walks up.
  • Silence Doesn’t Equal No – The natural conclusion drawn from childlessness would have been, “God doesn’t want us to have children.” In truth, He didn’t want them to have children…yet. There was a powerful ingredient being slowly sprinkled into the life of Zacharias and Elizabeth…time. Without time, two healthy people having a child would be routine, but old people…now you have the makings of a miracle. Gabriel mentions that they would be joyful, glad and many others would rejoice with them (Luke 1:14). And what a celebration I’m sure they had!
  • It was Worth the Wait – John was no ordinary baby. Not only was he special in the timing of his birth, he was special in spiritual power. The Bible says he was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb (v.15) and grew to be a firebrand in the order of Elijah (v.17). Imagine the pride of being Mom and Dad to the action hero bridging the gap from the Old Testament to the New. There had been 400 years since the previous prophet and suddenly they were chosen to raise the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah! My guess is they were sitting on the front row during his first sermon…yelling amen! 

So if you find yourself wondering about the silence, remember, God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Spend time prayerfully examining your way before Him and trust His perfect timing (Psalm 62:8, 75:2). 

Series: Thoughts on Luke – Lesson 1:5-25

Luke’s Model of Great Christian Writing

Imagine the answers in 40 A.D. if you’d gone around asking people their input on “Jesus of Nazareth”…kind of an ancient “Google search”. In addition to accurate testimony, there would have been wild stories, odd “explanations” and mythical tales. That was the context in which Luke set out to compile his account of Jesus’ life and ministry. In similar fashion, you’d get much of the same from an actual Google search today and Luke’s model is still applicable as we read and write various faith related things. Consider his intro:

“1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled Or events that have been accomplished, or events most surely believed among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us.3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” – HCSB 

Based on these verses, Luke had three qualities we should look for when considering modern writing: 

Question 1: Is the source credible?

Luke had credibility. He was an “Antioch endorsed” missionary assisting Paul. He was personally involved in God’s powerful work throughout the Roman Empire. He was a “learner” and a “practitioner” with his hands directly involved in ministry(Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-21:18, 27:1-28:16, Col. 4:10-14, Philemon 24, II Tim. 4:11). So when considering a Christian related book, post, or email, can you discern anything about the author or origin? I’m not suggesting everyone who writes needs to be an expert (that would knock me out for sure), but anonymity and vagueness are not productive. 

Question 2: Are the statements reliable?

Luke stuck to the facts and relied on eyewitness accounts. He says in verse 3 that he “carefully investigated” and then put things in an “orderly sequence”. Imagine that, he got his facts together first before tweeting, uh, I mean writing. As followers of Christ, we are to test every spirit (I John 4:1) and not believe everything we hear. False teachings, rumors, character assassinations and dissensions are much less likely to gain a foothold when we are interested in the truth. In the early days of the Church, many false teachings were cropping up, but thankfully there were men like Luke, Paul, John, Matthew and Mark who were devoted to getting it right and following the Holy Spirit’s lead. 

Question 3: What’s the motive for the work?

Luke’s reason for writing was pure. He says in verse 4 to Theophilus, “that you may know the certainty of the things you were taught”. Luke didn’t sit down one afternoon and say, “I think I’ll write some scripture.” He just humbly did what God was leading him to do and was honored for his faithfulness. You get the sense that he was trying to encourage and strengthen Theophilus in his faith…what a great motive. According to the Bible’s standard, all Christian writing should ultimately point to Jesus. Unfortunately, the lines can easily get blurred between what’s for Christ’s glory and what’s for our own. Luke got it right and I’m praying that many in our generation will too.

Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 1:1-4

Beware of “Free Lunches”

One summer, some discarded peaches at the edge of our yard turned into a “free lunch” for some June Bugs. I noticed in another part of the yard, birds were watching. When the bugs began taking advantage of the feast, the birds swooped in and snatched the bugs. I guess the moral of the story is, “Beware of free lunches, because you may just become lunch yourself!” 

Thankfully we don’t live in an Alfred Hitchcock film with birds as our enemies, but “free lunch” offers abound from politicians, sales people, and even spiritual “advisors”. But is anything really “free”? Nope. Somehow, somewhere, somebody will have to pay for it, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch. 

Similarly, the road to spiritual maturity is also filled with distracting short-cuts, but Jesus offers something different; to be and make disciples. It’s not an easy path, but supremely rewarding. From the beginning with Adam, God made us to be productive and it often involves work, commitment and discipline. Thankfully salvation is by grace and not works (Eph. 2:8); but I need to be busy too. I pray that I am…busy in the right way…and teaching our children to do the same. How about you? I say, forget the free lunch, we’ve got a banquet with the King to look forward to!

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