Brent Curtis said that if he could write the script for his life the title would be, "God Helps Brent Pursue Money, Wealth, and Fame While Living a Quiet Life." (The Sacred Romance)
That describes the aspirations of most, middle-class, Christians. It not only describes our aspirations, but our expectations. The news, both good and bad for our aspirations and expectations, is that we are not writing the script for our lives. Jesus is "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
"But the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name 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 fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he trun back 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 fathers 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)
Notice the angel responds to a “prayer” in the singular. I would imagine they had prayed thousands of prayers. But there was one prayer that defined every desire they had and trumped every other request.
Most of us have "a prayer"
If your spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, you may pray about a lot of things, but one prayer defines your every day. If you lose your job and the bills are coming due, you may have prayed many prayers, but right then your prayers always come back to one thing, one prayer.
Almost everyone has "a prayer." The single believer, the person married to someone who doesn't share their faith, the parents whose child left home and hasn't bothered to contact them in years, all have “a prayer”. Some of us have been praying our prayer for so long we understand why Zechariah was startled when God showed up and said, "This is the day, your prayer has been heard." But it does happen!
Still, I have been thinking a bit about the prayer these two prayed and whether God was really doing them any favors.
They wanted a baby
My wife and I have had, and nearly raised, three children now and every time I hear a starry-eyed young couple gush, "Oh we can't wait to have a baby," I have to fight back the urge to ask, "Why on earth would you want that?"
Give me some space here. I wanted every child I had, and I have had every child I want. When Gabriel describes the coming of their child he says, “He will be a joy and delight to you…". I want to qualify that with, “SOME OF THE TIME”.
He will also cost you a lot of money, force you get out of bed three times a night to feed him, make you change his diapers, grow up into a middle-schooler, eat all your food, bring home weird friends and he will make you understand why some animals eat their young.
A young couple prayed hard for a baby. They went through all the frustrations and disappointments of waiting. Finally, the day came when they heard the news that they were expecting. God was good to his word in their life and they had a son. That little boy was a joy and delight. The delivery room and nursery were full of smiles and happy tears. The whole atmosphere was heavy with dreams and expectations.
One week after they took the child home, my wife and I visited. Their house was full of undone dishes and unmade beds. Screams and squalls filled the air. The exhausted mother met us at the door with pure exasperation showing in every line of her face. My wife asked, "Can I hold him."
"YES PLEASE!" she exhaled, almost before the question was finished.
Write this down. When God answers "the prayer" of your life, the answer will probably have you praying a lot more and different prayers.
On top of all of this, Gabriel tells them before the boy is born, that he will become a Nazarite Prophet. Not President of the United States, astronaut, lawyer, banker, or business owner. So there goes the bumper sticker on your donkey-"My Son is a Doctor". Nope, your son is going to grow up to be a "Holiness Preacher". Nothing sexy about that.
Some of you want a husband, and you know exactly what sort of husband he will be and what sort of marriage you will have. What if God said, "I have heard your prayer and you will have a husband, he will be a joy to you and he will move you to Tanzania to live in a mud hut and do missions work."
Maybe that is why we often have to pray "the prayer" for a long time before it is answered.
"He will be a joy and delight to you..."
Why? Because he will make the honor roll or be the starting quarterback or Homecoming Queen? No, he will make people want to get closer to God. He will make fathers want to love their kids. He will influence the culture to want to live in line with truth. When Gabriel says that this will delight them, he wasn't making a prediction but an observation.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had reached a point in their lives when they really would take great joy in seeing their son serve the Lord above everything else. So they were ready for "the prayer" of their lives to be answered.
It is a precious gift God gives us when he calls us to be a part of his purposes in this world. When he impregnates us with something bigger than ourselves, when he allows us to give birth to a ministry or a mission that blesses people other than ourselves.
Are they demanding? Do they challenge us and stretch us? Do they keep us awake at night…and at times cause us despair? Absolutely! But they also give us meaning and joy and we couldn’t imagine living without them.
It is a precious gift God gives us when he calls us to be a part of his purposes in this world.
"This is the true joy in life - being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” (G. Bernard Shaw)
Just a thought.