‘God has heard your prayers’
Perhaps we can consider a few, brief thoughts on the Gospel for today. It is the account of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, and the message which came to him and to his wife, that though they were old in years, and their time of fruitfulness had passed according to all human wisdom, yet in the will of God all things were possible, and his wife was already with child, though advanced in years.
There are a great many things which we could reflect on, but in this short time together let us consider first of all the description of Zacharias and Elisabeth themselves which we find in the passage. St Luke says of them, that they were righteous before God, and walked blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. These were good people. They were committed to serving God, and over many years they had prayed earnestly, asking that he would give them the desire of their hearts.
I know that in my own life, and in my service here at St Albans, we have often prayed for our little Orthodox community. And like Zacharias and Elisabeth we have had to have faith that God will work out his will, in his way and in his own time. I hope that we are good people. I hope that we are committed to serving God. And we have certainly grown older in God’s service. Yet we have not seen the answers to our prayers, both here in our community, and in our own lives. And we wait, like Zacharias and Elisabeth. We do not give up. We trust in God, since it is his service we are committed to.
So we learn that those who are faithful in their service do not always see the immediate answer to their prayers. And sometimes, perhaps often, they must wait for many years. And Zacharias and Elisabeth had grown old while waiting with faith.
But in God’s time the angel appeared to Zacharias while he was serving as normal. It was not an unusual situation, but according to custom he was offering incense in the temple. And the angel comes to Zacharias as he serves faithfully and says that God has heard his prayer. Zacharias could not have known that morning as he prepared himself that this would be the day. And we cannot know for ourselves. When will the word of the Lord come to us – when will we hear ‘God has heard your prayer’? It could be today. It could be tomorrow. It could be next year or a year afterwards. But if we serve with faith then the angel will come.
Now Zacharias doubted. After all that time. All that waiting. He stumbled at the end and God had to prove to him that the word was true. We don’t hear of any criticism of Elisabeth. It would seem that like the Blessed Virgin Mary she received the word of the angel with joy as the fulfilment of her prayers and dreams. This shows us that even in the answering of our prayers we need to continue in faith. We must wait with faith. We must serve with faith. We must welcome the angel with faith.
And in faithfulness we will see the answering of our prayers. In God’s will. In God’s time. In God’s way. The answer will come if we persevere in faithful service, even while we are going about our usual routine as Christian disciples. The angel will visit us and say ‘God has heard your prayers’.
May we all be kept in faithfulness by the grace of the Holy Spirit until we hear those words, both for ourselves, and for our community here. To the greater glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.