by Debbie Wilson
“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25 NIV
What if I told you unanswered prayer may be a sign of God’s favor? You might argue that since biblical days, many have taught otherwise. That if you’re sick, or God has closed your womb, then you’ve fallen from grace.
What if I told you the Bible shows the reverse was true for some of God’s chosen ones?
In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, one line spoken by Elizabeth, after she became pregnant, speaks volumes about the pain she suffered during her years of unanswered prayer. “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people’” (Luke 1:25 NIV).
The Jews believed Elizabeth’s barrenness represented God’s punishment for some hidden sin. For decades, Elizabeth, a descendant of the High Priest Aaron and a priest’s wife, felt disgraced among her people. I can imagine her begging God to show her what she had done to lose God’s favor.
We know God’s delay in answering Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer wasn’t because of His displeasure. But they didn’t know that—until much later.
The Bible describes Zechariah and Elizabeth as “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7 NIV).
In their culture, righteous and barren didn’t go together. But what her peers saw as disgrace, God saw as special favor. He had not overlooked Elizabeth. He had chosen her for a special honor. He’d chosen her to raise the forerunner of His Son!
When the angel told Zechariah that God had answered his prayer, I picture Zechariah scratching his head. Which prayer? Since they were both very old, I’m sure they hadn’t prayed for a child in ages. Listen to the angel’s words:
“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. 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 other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel 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 parents 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 NIV).
If God had shown Elizabeth His plan when she was young, whose plan do you think she would have chosen? Would she have chosen to fulfill her friends and family’s expectations by having an ordinary child at the expected age? Or would she have chosen to be a part of the miracle of Christmas and bear the son Jesus described as, “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV)?
Do you have a prayer that has gone unanswered? Have you felt judged by others or forgotten by God because of it? From the perspective of time, we seeGod’s plan for Elizabeth was better than her own. Will you trust Him with your desires too? Elizabeth provides one more reason to trust God with unanswered prayer.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.
She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.
Join the conversation: Have you struggled with unanswered prayer?