In Luke chapter 1 when the angel appears to Zechariah he says to Zechariah,
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” – Luke 1:13-17
“Your prayer has been heard”
As I was reading this story again I thought about this statement. We know that Zechariah and Elizabeth are “both very old” ( vs. 7) at this point and though righteous (vs. 6), they remained childless. They had probably prayed for a child many, many times throughout the years, but based on Zechariah’s unbelief (vs. 18), he had either stopped praying for a child–understandable given their age–or did not think the prayer would be answered–also understandable.
We may not see the answer to our prayers until long after we’ve prayed them, even after we’ve stopped praying them. In fact, they may be answered after we think they are no longer possible as happened with Zechariah.
When they are answered, the answer may go far beyond what we were praying for in the first place. Zechariah and Elizabeth were praying for a child, but they probably were not praying that their child would be John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for the long-awaited Messiah. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from before he was even born and turned many hearts back to the Lord. He was an answer to their prayers and far beyond.
While we don’t know for sure how or when our prayers will be answered, we can take encouragement from Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Our God answers forgotten prayers. He answers them long after we’ve given up and after we think they are no longer answerable. His answers are always better and more perfect than we ever knew to pray in the beginning.
Do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard.