(This was a hard post to write. It might be a hard post for you to read. I hope it brings encouragement to someone who feels like God has forgotten.)
Praying. How long do you pray something before you quietly stop? At what point does the praying become too painful? It can be like ripping a scab off an old wound. Is it right to keep demanding something from God after you have prayed earnestly for years?
I was reminded of Zacharias the other day. (See Luke 1:5-23) He and his wife were “righteous in God’s sight.” They were also well advanced in age, and childless. Zacharias was serving as a priest and it was his turn to go into the sanctuary and burn incense. Imagine his surprise when the angel Gabriel appears to him beside the altar. This was his message.
“Do not be afraid…your prayer has been heard.” “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…”
Now I suspect that at one point Zacharias and Elizabeth had both prayed fervently for a son. I also suspect that they had quit praying quite a while ago. As the years passed and as they both grew older, they realized that God had chosen not to send the son they longed for. They had stopped hoping.
I think Zacharias’ response to the angel points this out. “How can I know this? … For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”
What a comfort to know that God hears our prayers. He hears the first prayer. He hears the last prayer. He hears the prayers we pray boldly and the ones we whisper. His answer is not dependent on our praying harder or longer.
Yes, we are to persevere in prayer, but it is not our perseverance that brings the result. God alone answers as He wills.
So pray. But when it gets too hard to pray, sometimes we must leave it with Him. To shift our gaze from the longed-for answer, to the God who heard our request the first time we asked.