Today’s (12/19/2022) readings at Mass offer a smorgasbord of viands on which to prayerfully feast. One item that caught my eye is found in the Gospel reading, in the words of the angel Gabriel to Zachariah. Gabriel says “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.” Then he goes on to tell Zechariah that his wife will finally conceive a child. And not just any child, but one who would grow up to be a mighty man of God!
Interestingly, we know that Elizabeth is technically too old to conceive a child, so I doubt that her husband would still be actively praying for a child. Given Zechariah’s incredulous response to Gabriel’s announcement, it becomes even more likely that Zechariah assumed his prayer to have a child was passed its expiration date.
Yet, years after Zechariah prayed and hoped…hoped and prayed, God is answering his prayer now.
How often do we pray for something that is good (the gift of a baby, a conversion, a healing), and it appears that God is not ever going to answer us? It can shake our confidence in Him. Perhaps we find ourselves praying less or even becoming embittered toward God. “After all, it isn’t as though I am praying a selfish prayer. Why won’t God help me?”
Like Veruca Salt in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we figuratively (or occasionally literally in my case) belt out, “Don’t care how—I want it now!”
It is good to be reminded that God’s timing is perfect. Who are we to tell Him what He should do or when He should act? As my mother-in-law used to say, “God is so much smarter than we are.”
Currently, my husband and I are waiting on God to answer a moderately significant prayer to which many readers may relate. My husband, who is the primary breadwinner of our family, has been asking the Lord for a better job for 15 years, but now that he is unemployed, his prayer has gained urgency. Mysteriously, it has taken longer than expected for him to secure new employment, though he is highly experienced with impeccable references. Doing everything we can to be receptive to God’s will and His direction, we continue to pray, frequent the sacraments, and engage in works of mercy. And we wait.
Though our emotions sometimes betray us, my husband and I know that this trial offers us a priceless opportunity to demonstrate fidelity to God. We recall the hundreds of years the Israelite people had to wait for deliverance from their promised Messiah. We think of the truly heart-wrenching crosses of others within our own circle. We count our blessings. In the meantime, God continues to refine us, teaching us and empowering us to continue praising Him as does the psalmist in today’s responsorial psalm, “My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!”
Sometimes, for those of us who put our faith in Jesus Christ, it can be agonizing when we experience “unanswered” prayer. Our minds dart around trying to think of a way to get God to do what we want Him to do. We may even be tempted to discouragement and despair, but Our Lord invites us to believe and to persevere in trust. Like the faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth, He sees us, He loves us, and He will answer our prayer in His timing. The perfect timing.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.