Luke 1:1-25: John, a child prayed for.(please click here for today’s Bible passage)
Luke was a gentile doctor, ‘a man with a scientific turn of mind’ as someone put it, and he wrote a two volume history of the beginnings of Christianity that we know as ‘Luke’ and ‘Acts’. It is interesting that these two books, so full of miraculous occurrences, should be written by a ‘scientist’. This opening chapter of the fourth gospel shows continuity with the Jewish Old Testament; we recognise that we are in an unfolding story. But it also emphasises factuality and reliability. I am stirred to think of the effort Luke put in to communicate the truth of Christianity to, it seems, just one man, ‘’Theophilus’’, who, it is thought, was probably a high ranking Roman official, and a ‘seeker’. Bill Hybels has repeatedly said, ‘’Lost people matter to God.’’ They should also matter to us, and they are worth every effort to reach them. (N.B. At one time, it was fashionable amongst scholars to dismiss the historicity of Luke. Then an archaeologist called William Ramsay came along, and he discovered that on point after point Luke was right!)
This opening story is a very human one, full of pathos. Zechariah and Elizabeth were good and godly people, but there was sadness in their lives. (Somebody said that we should be gentle with everyone we meet because all people have some area of pain somewhere.) Being a believer, and faithful to God, is not an inoculation against trouble. Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless, and barrenness, for a woman, was regarded as a great disgrace in that culture (25). But, as someone pointed out to me, you are never too old to be blessed by God. The Lord doesn’t just use young people.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed about their situation. That much is clear (13). How long had they prayed? How desperately and persistently has they prayed? I don’t know. But this much I can see, through their prayers God did far more than they could ask or imagine. In God’s time, not only did they get a baby boy, but they discovered that he was to be the long promised ‘forerunner’ of the Messiah. Wow! ‘’He will be one of God’s great men.’’ (15) J.B. Phillips. Prayer is one of the major themes in Luke/Acts, and as we work our way through the gospel we are going to encounter the teaching of Jesus about persistence in prayer. Zechariah and Elizabeth show that such prayer is powerful.
But, when Zechariah was told that his prayer was answered, he was an unbelieving believer (18-20). However, I find I cannot point the finger for all too often I am just like this. ‘Peter’ is at the door. I have been praying fervently for ‘Peter’, along with others; praying that somehow he will get out of ‘prison’; praying for a miracle. Then when I find him at the door I can’t believe it (Acts 12:12-16).
When Zechariah heard what great blessing was to come to his door, he didn’t get above himself. He wasn’t puffed up with pride. He just humbly carried on his service (23-25), and went home and played his part in the miracle. It was no less a supernatural work of God, but the Lord looks for men and women who will fully cooperate with Him. And so there was great joy and gladness in this prayer-filled home.
Here is one final thought for today: ‘’The crowded congregation outside was praying at the actual time of the incense-burning.’’ (10). J.B. Phillips. It is important that we pray for ‘ministers’ and services, and it’s great if that praying can happen at the time the ministry is being given. Our God answers prayer. Never doubt it. Be encouraged today. And don’t stop praying for your children, even though they may now be fully grown. Let them always be children prayed for.