When the Prayers of the Praying Community are Answered

December 10, 2022

Luke 1:13 NIV

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 call him John."

Today's Reading: Luke 1:8-17

Devo Author: Carrie Tucker

Date: December 10, 2022

In Luke 1, the story of the Messiah begins with a scene in Jerusalem. An older, faithful, childless couple is introduced and Zechariah, the husband, is called up to serve at the Temple. Every morning and every evening, a priest would burn incense in front of the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the place where God had once dwelt. For over 500 years, that room had been empty of God’s presence. The incense and prayers of the faithful outside showed the world that the community was devoted to the one, true God, even if the manifested glory of God was no longer in the Temple. On that day, as Zechariah lit the incense, God spoke through His angel, Gabriel. God showed up. Once again, God entered the chaos of the world, ushered in by the pleasing aroma offered in worship by a faithful man and a praying community just as the prophets told He would (see Malachi 3:1). In Luke 1:13, the angel says to Zechariah that his prayer had been heard. Many assume his prayer was for Elizabeth to have a child, but what if his prayer was for God to come down and dwell with His people again? He would have been standing at the veil that leads into the Holy of Holies for the first and only time in his life, surrounded by the aroma of the incense, aware of what was missing. The name “John” means “God has been gracious.” When Gabriel spoke to Zechariah, he brought reassurance and a promise. He told Zechariah God was coming back. God was going to graciously bring hope for his people and his child, John, would be sent “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (17).

I have a friend whom I love and look up to named Michelle. Her story is one of miraculous faithfulness. A story of hope in a hopeless situation. As a single woman, she became the guardian of her twin nieces who were removed from their family’s care. The girls were traumatized and hurting. But Michelle stepped in. Now, 10 years later, I can honestly say the girls are still traumatized, hurting, and acting out of that hurt in harmful ways, although they are safe and loved and better cared for than most kids their age.

Michelle is smart, aware, and resourceful and she does all she can. She has reasonable expectations. She asks for help. And she is faithful to pray. Whenever I ask her how she is doing, she always answers that all she can do is pray. She is counting on God’s promise, that through His Son, all the broken things will one day be made new. Michelle is able to see God’s grace in the midst of her difficult circumstances because she is a part of the praying community, expecting God’s grace, waiting for Him to step in.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NASB1995) says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” As followers of Christ, we carry with us the knowledge of the Messiah as incense to the world. He is a part of us. We can’t always make things happen. We can’t always love people enough. We can’t make people choose good and right things. But we can be the aroma of Christ by praying, expecting God’s grace, and remembering His promises. Even when He is silent or when we feel like all is lost, He is working. His promise to make the broken things new through Christ is still true. Let’s be a community of prayer–lifting up people like my friend, Michelle, praying for Him to make things new, waiting for Christ to come again.