“Because of the tender mercies of our God,
by which the rising sun will visit us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
(Luke chapter 1, verses 78-79)
My toes dig into wet sand. I stand at the water’s edge and watch as a gentle breeze ripples through the silver ocean. I breathe in salty air, searching for the words, but I can’t find any. I have no prayers left.
I’ve come to the beach to find a miracle…and watch the sunset. But thick cloud spreads over the horizon, shutting out the sunlight, so my expectation for a colour-filled evening is low.
The gift of silence
I feel like Zechariah when his faith was small. He’d prayed the same prayer day after day, year after year, until he couldn’t face the disappointment a moment longer. Even when an angel stood before him saying, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer,” he wouldn’t allow himself to hope.
As a young man he’d prayed for a son. Now his hair was white and the prayer felt old and stale on his lips. How many times had he dared to dream, only to be crushed?
Zechariah thought God had missed His opportunity to answer him:
“How do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is too old to give me a child.”
(Luke chapter 1, verse 18)
Humanly speaking, Zechariah’s dream of a son was now impossible so he doubted God had heard his cry. As a result the ability to speak was taken from him. For nine months Zechariah was silent. But perhaps the silence was a gift. His decades long prayer had been answered, his wife was with child. The tender mercies of God had visited him. Words were no longer needed.
Our promise is bigger than just us
I can’t find the words to pray for a miracle. So I pick up a stone and throw it into the ocean instead. Plop. It sinks into a wave. I wonder if this is my Zechariah moment when all the praying has been done and now it’s time to listen.
“You will be silent…for my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
(Luke chapter 1, verse 20)
Zechariah’s prayer was deeply personal. He longed for a son to love, to bring up, to teach, to be his heir, to call him Papa. God took that personal prayer and answered it in a way beyond Zechariah’s wildest dream. God’s answer both satisfied Zechariah’s personal desire to be a dad and fulfilled His sovereign plan to minister to the nation of Israel through John, Zechariah’s son.
“Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son…You will have great joy, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord…And he will turn many of the children of Israel back to the Lord their God…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
(Luke chapter 1, verses 13-17)
There is growth in the waiting, so that when the blessing comes we’re ready and it’s not more than we can handle. A young man couldn’t have raised John the Baptist, the prophet who prepared the way for Israel’s messiah. It would take all the wisdom, life lessons, and faith of someone who had walked with God through hard places to raise a son like that. Zechariah thought his time had passed him by, but the waiting meant he was ready for his God-assigned task. And because he waited on God for His promise it wasn’t Zechariah alone that would benefit from its fulfilment — yes, he would have great joy, but so would many!
Our prayers are so much bigger than just us. God is intimate, yet Sovereign. He’s going to answer you in a way that meets your personal longing, yet fulfils His broader plans.
God has heard your prayer
I stand at the water’s edge. Somewhere buried deep behind the cloud is the sun. It’s hidden from my sight. I watch and wait but the sky remains slate-grey and gloomy. I check the time and realise the sun has already set. I sit on a rock, disappointed that there’s no brilliant colour in the sky tonight. I’ve run out of prayers and even the sunset didn’t go the way I hoped it would.
I’m about to give up and leave the beach when a glimmer of amber light leaks from the ocean into the dark cloud. Like a paintbrush sweeping watercolours across a blank page, bringing it to life, the amber light seeps into purple and pink and creeps higher into the sky. The canopy above me begins to radiate brighter and brighter like a rainbow-coloured flame, and my heart burns with awakened hope. I have found my miracle. When I’m silent, heaven still answers.
In the moment when Zechariah had no prayers left, the angel visited him and said,
“God has heard your prayer.”
(Luke chapter 1, verse 13)
His darkest sky was moments away from becoming more glorious than anything he could imagine. When we think it’s too late for a miracle, God still shows up. His timing isn’t our timing. His ways are so much higher than our own.
His love will transform your grey horizon into a glorious spectrum of possibility. Wait, and see.
Amy is a Press Services International Columnist from Adelaide. Her previous articles can be viewed here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/amy-manners.html
Amy is a Press Services International Columnist from Adelaide. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Screen & Media, and now works as a freelance photographer, videographer and writer. She was runner-up in the 2018 Basil Sellars Award. Her previous articles can be viewed here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/amy-manners.html