No Expiration Date on Prayer

I expect too much of Zechariah, I suppose. Even though sometimes I struggle with prayer fatigue, I don’t want to give him that same benefit. He was a priest, after all—shouldn’t he have led the way in faith? When we meet him in Luke 1, he is in the Holy Place offering incense to God—a once-in-a-lifetime honor for any priest. If God were ever going to show up, wouldn’t it be here, wouldn’t it be now?

Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a son for years. They were righteous and blameless before God. So why was Zechariah so surprised when God broke in? When Gabriel announced the answer to Zechariah’s prayers, why was Zechariah skeptical?

The text doesn’t tell us why Zechariah struggled to believe, but I think I know. I think he assumed his prayers had passed their expiration date. He’d prayed for decades, yet month after month after month there was no answer. Elizabeth could not conceive. And now they were both old. There was no son to carry on his priestly line. Instead of joy and fullness, there were disappointment, shame, and myriad unanswered questions. Obviously (it seemed) God wasn’t going to answer. Those prayers must have passed their expiration date.

I’ve been there. I haven’t prayed nearly as long as Zechariah did—but repeated disappointment still has a way of wearing me down. There’s one prayer in particular that I’ve prayed for a few years now. I pray and pray and wait and wait, but nothing seems to be happening. Meanwhile, people around me give joyful accounts of how God is answering their prayers—the same kinds of prayers I’m praying without seeing results. I’m happy for them—truly I am—but I can’t help but wonder why God seems to respond to them but not to me.

The temptation for me, then, is to try to protect myself from being let down again. I don’t want to expect too much, only to be disappointed. So I pray with less passion, less faith, less anticipation. Eventually I just pray less—at least on that particular topic.

But you don’t have to read far in the Bible to see that God operates on a different time table than I do. Story after story shows Him answering prayers years, decades, sometimes even centuries after people expected He would. Some of those prayers will wait to be answered when Jesus returns. But just because the wait sometimes is long does not mean that the prayers have expired.

So, this Advent season, Zechariah encourages me to keep at it. God hears me. He is never late. My prayers have not expired. My job is to keep praying, watching, and hoping. When the time is right, He will come through.

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7 thoughts on “No Expiration Date on Prayer

  1. niednagel says:

    Thank you, dear friend, for another encouraging reminder to always keep praying and never give up!

  2. Vicki says:

    A good word – thank you.

  3. Bob Yates says:

    Thanks for this important reminder on prayer. It brings to mind a favorite Scripture — Luke 11:9-10 (NLT)

    9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

  4. krekker says:

    Thank you for this. I too, have been praying something for my son for many years now and we still have not had an answer. I must admit that I have stopped praying for it…. I believe God has heard and perhaps, like in Daniel, has already sent an answer… but we have not seen it yet. I believe that God can do what we ask in a moment, so don’t understand why it has not transpired. I will again take up my petition and pray with anticipation. God is good. All the time.

  5. Lea Ann Brookens says:

    “keep praying, watching, and hoping” a great encouragement as I think of my own prayers I’ve prayed for decades!!!

  6. Nolen Burt says:

    Cynthia

    Thanks for sharing.

    As you know, one of my long-term prayers is for my son – Christopher – to find God’s plan for his life – release the past – and tackle his alcohol issue head-on.

    The other is for my half-brother – Richard – who leads a Mormon family that has now over 100 descendants.

    Both seem to be – very big petitions to the Lord – but – never too big a task for the Lord. And, like you – I am not going to give up on asking.

    Blessings Dear Sister

    Nolen C. Burt
    Director of Ministry Service Center
    Community Bible Study
    790 Stout Road
    Colorado Springs, CO. 80921
    719-955-7777 ext. 5453
    nolen.burt@communitybiblestudy.org

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