December 7: Believing you will receive?

And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

Luke 1:20

Zacharias, unlike Mary, had to act for God’s plan to be fulfilled.

Let’s contrast Zacharias with the early church and an Old Testament character:

  • Zacharias was afraid to claim the direct promise of God.
  • The early church sought a promise from God, but didn’t believe when the answer came!

[12] And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
[13] And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
[14] And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
[15] And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.

Acts 12:12-15
  • Shadrach said God is able to promise, but we’ll obey Him even if He doesn’t promise.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Daniel 3:17-18

In all three cases God answered their prayers.

Shadrach had no direct promise of a supernatural protection. Zacharias had a direct promise of a supernatural action.

Shadrach believed God but wasn’t presumptive that God would answer. Zacharias was a righteous man but weary and didn’t believe that God would answer. The early church mocked the one who said the answer came!

The key to answered prayer is not “how hard we believe” – but in Whom we believe.

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Matthew 17:20

Patch the Pirate has a great song about “Mountain Moving Faith”

December 6: Where do answers to prayer come from?

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

Luke 1:19

The answer to Zacharias’ prayer did not come from Gabriel, it came via Gabriel. Gabriel did not answer his prayer. Gabriel was the messenger to deliver the answer.

The answer to his prayer, and to our prayers, come from God. His servants that inspire fear, are just that, servants. A meeting with the Secretary of Education is impressive, but not as impressive as the President of the United States. An angel is cool, but nothing compared to the One in Whose presence he stands.

God, thank You that we have direct access to You! Thank You that You do not call us servants any more, but friends! You have invited us to draw near to You! Help us to draw near.

December 5: Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children

And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Luke 1:17

The angel Gabriel is quoting the prophet Malachi, from the very last verse of the Old Testament.

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Malachi 4:6

By the way, in Zacharias’ day this wasn’t just the Old Testament, this promise was the last words of God – and about 400 years old.

To modern readers, this is like reading the Mayflower Compact from 400 years ago (the guiding principles of the founders of our country). So much changes in 400 years. But the difference was not just one group of historically significant people contributed this document to our history – the Malachi prophecy was the words of Almighty God!

Zacharias wasn’t just having a baby boy – he was having the foretold messenger that was prophesied 400 years ago.

But that task that John the Baptist began is still not done.

$100,000,000,000. That’s One Hundred Billion Dollars. According to a government research study, that’s the cost of abstenee fathers. We need the hearts of the fathers turned to the children today. Let’s pray that God will continue His work and can use us in His ministry.

December 4: What is God’s plan for prayer?

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

Luke 1:14

Zacharias was old and tired. “Well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7). And now afraid (Luke 1:12). He was scared to death. As if the angelic visit wasn’t enough, trying to raise a newborn boy at an old age?

And to top it off, he would be mute for nine months (Luke 1:20).

Was God punishing Him? No – Zacharias was righteous and blameless (Luke 1:6).

God was blessing Him with joy and gladness (Luke 1:14).

God wants to make you joyful!

The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.

Proverbs 10:22

December 3: A long unanswered prayer

But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

Luke 1:13

How long do you think Zacharias had prayed for a son? If his wife was 20 at the time they were married, and now was “well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7) – they were now perhaps in their 60s or even older?

Imagine the young couple, newly married, the young priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth. Several months into their marriage, they are worried, and make an appointment to talk to the high priest. He asks them to check for sin in their life (Deuteronomy 7:12-14). They return home, confess their sins, and wait.

The next year, they make another appointment to talk to the high priest, and perhaps he told them to pray like Isaac did and make this a specific prayer request (Genesis 25:21).

Perhaps the third year they meet again with the high priest, and were told this time to pray like Daniel, for three weeks at a time, fasting even (Daniel 10:3), until the satanic messenger is defeated (Daniel 10:13).

Perhaps the next year they talked to the high priest, and were told to pray like Hannah (1 Samuel 1:7), who year after year went to the temple barren, and “wept sore” (1 Samuel 1:10).

Perhaps the fifth year, the high priest suggests that they copy the pattern of Hannah, and make a vow to give their son to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:11). A Nazarite vow.

Where was the God of Psalm 113:9? Did the promise of Deuteronomy 7:14 fail? They met the conditions – they were righteous in the sight of God (Luke 1:6).

The years turned into decades. The wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18) was now “well stricken in years” (Luke 1:7).

Perhaps they had been praying decades for the prayer request, only for Zacharias to give up because they thought it was impossible. He may have admitted that God’s ways were beyond his comprehension, and like Job he would accept his fate (Job 1:21).

He continued to serve God in the temple, faithfully in full-time service.

But after he had given up, when it seemed impossible, God answered His prayer.

December 2: The qualities of the man (and woman) who receives answers to prayer

And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Luke 1:6

Notice that Zacharias and Elizabeth were seen by God just as Noah was.

And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.

Exodus 7:1

What was Noah known for?

These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Genesis 6:9

Noah walked with God. Today we call that “prayer.”

Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Noah realized the truth that Isaiah proclaimed:

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Isaiah 59:2

December 1: Mary and Zacharias – two conflicting responses.

And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

Luke 1:18

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Luke 1:34

Zacharias and Mary were both visited by an angel. Zacharias and Mary were both told to fear not. Zacharias and Mary were both told they would have a child. Zacharias thought he was too old. Mary didn’t have a husband. But when told of the LORD’s plan, they had different responses.

Zacharias had prayed for a son (Luke 1:13), but now didn’t believe when the angel told him (Luke 1:18).

Mary hadn’t prayed for a son at this time, but didn’t understand how it could happen (Luke 1:34).

The LORD is ok with you not understanding, but is not ok with your not believing.

November 30: George Muller’s Greatest Trial

George Muller

“In July, 1853, it pleased the Lord to try my faith in a way in which before it had not been tried. My beloved daughter and only child, and a believer since the commencement of the year 1846, was taken ill on June 20th.

“This illness, at first a low fever, turned to typhus. On July 3rd there seemed no hope of her recovery. Now was the trial of faith. But faith triumphed. My beloved wife and I were enabled to give her up into the hands of the Lord. He sustained us both exceedingly. But I will only speak about myself. Though my only and beloved child was brought near the grave, yet was my soul in perfect peace, satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father, being assured that He would only do that for her and her parents, which in the end would be the best. She continued very ill till about July 20th, when restoration began.

“On Aug. 18th she was so far restored that she could be removed to Clevedon for change of air, though exceedingly weak. It was then 59 days since she was first taken ill. * * * * * *

“Parents know what an only child, a beloved child is, and what to believing parents an only child, a believing child must be. Well, the Father in Heaven said, as it were, by this His dispensation, ‘Art thou willing to give up this child to me?’ My heart responded, As it seems good to Thee, my Heavenly Father. Thy will be done. But as our hearts were made willing to give back our beloved child to Him who had given her to us, so He was ready to leave her to us, and she lived. ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’ Psalm xxxvii. 4. The desires of my heart were, to retain the beloved daughter if it were the will of God; the means to retain her were to be satisfied with the will of the Lord.

“Of all the trials of faith that as yet I have had to pass through, this was the greatest; and by God’s abundant mercy, I own it to His praise, I was enabled to delight myself in the will of God; for I felt perfectly sure, that, if the Lord took this beloved daughter, it would be best for her parents, best for herself, and more for the glory of God than if she lived: this better part I was satisfied with; and thus my heart had peace, perfect peace, and I had not a moment’s anxiety. Thus would it be under all circumstances, however painful, were the believer exercising faith.”

November 29: Marriage Advice

George Muller

“Let me here add a word of Christian counsel. To enter upon the marriage union is one of the most deeply important events of life. It cannot be too prayerfully treated. Our happiness, our usefulness, our living for God or for ourselves afterwards, are often most intimately connected with our choice. Therefore, in the most prayerful manner, this choice should be made.

Neither beauty, nor age, nor money, nor mental powers, should be that which prompt the decision; but 1st, Much waiting upon God for guidance should be used; 2nd, A hearty purpose, to be willing to be guided by Him should be aimed after; 3rd, True godliness without a shadow of doubt, should be the first and absolutely needful qualification, to a Christian, with regard to a companion for life.

In addition to this, however, it ought to be, at the same time, calmly and patiently weighed, whether, in other respects, there is a suitableness. For instance, for an educated man to choose an entirely uneducated woman, is unwise; for however much on his part love might be willing to cover the defect, it will work very unhappily with regard to the children.”

November 28: The 1859 Revival

George Muller

“In November, 1856, a young Irishman, Mr. James McQuilkin, was brought to the knowledge of the Lord. Soon after his conversion he saw my Narrative advertised, viz.: the first two volumes of this book. He had a great desire to read it, and procured it accordingly, about January, 1857.

God blessed it greatly to his soul, especially in showing to him, what could be obtained by prayer. He said to himself something like this: ‘See what Mr. Müller obtains simply by prayer. Thus I may obtain blessing by prayer.’

He now set himself to pray, that the Lord would give him a spiritual companion, one who knew the Lord. Soon after he became acquainted with a young man who was a believer. These two began a prayer-meeting in one of the Sunday Schools in the parish of Connor. Having his prayer answered in obtaining a spiritual companion, Mr. James McQuilkin asked the Lord to lead him to become acquainted with some more of His hidden ones. Soon after the Lord gave him two more young men, who were believers previously, as far as he could judge.

In Autumn, 1857, Mr. James McQuilkin stated to these three young men, given him in answer to believing prayer, what blessing he had derived from my Narrative, how it had led him to see the power of believing prayer; and he proposed that they should meet for prayer to seek the Lord’s blessing upon their various labours in the Sunday Schools, prayer-meetings, and preaching of the Gospel. Accordingly in Autumn, 1857, these four young men met together for prayer in a small school-house near the village of Kells, in the parish of Connor, every Friday evening.

By this time the great and mighty working of the Spirit, in 1857, in the United States, had become known, and Mr. James McQuilkin said to himself, ‘Why may not we have such a blessed work here, seeing that God did such great things for Mr. Müller, simply in answer to prayer.’ On January 1, 1858, the Lord gave them the first remarkable answer to prayer in the conversion of a farm servant. He was taken into the number, and thus there were five who gave themselves to prayer. Shortly after, another young man, about 20 years old, was converted; there were now six.

This greatly encouraged the other three who first had met with Mr. James McQuilkin. Others now were converted, who were also taken into the number; but only believers were admitted to these fellowship meetings, in which they read, prayed, and offered to each other a few thoughts from the Scriptures. These meetings and others for the preaching of the Gospel were held in the parish of Connor, Antrim, Ireland. Up to this time all was going on most quietly, though many souls were converted, There were no physical prostrations, as afterwards.

“About Christmas, 1858, a young man, from Ahoghill, who had come to live at Connor, and who had been converted through this little company of believers, went to see his friends at Ahoghill, and spoke to them about their own souls, and the work of God at Connor. His friends desired to see some of these converts. Accordingly Mr. James McQuilkin, with two of the first who met for prayer, went on February 2, 1859, and held a meeting at Ahoghill in one of the Presbyterian Churches. Some believed, some mocked, and others thought there was a great deal of presumption in these young converts; yet many wished to have another meeting.

This was held by the same three young men on February 16th, 1859; and now the Spirit of God began to work, and to work mightily. Souls were converted, and from that time conversions multiplied rapidly. Some of these converts went to other places, and carried the spiritual fire, so to speak, with them. The blessed work of the spirit of God spread in many places.—On April 5th, 1859, Mr. James McQuilkin went to Ballymena, held a meeting there in one of the Presbyterian Churches; and on April 11th held another meeting in another of the Presbyterian churches. Several were convinced of sin and the work of the Spirit of God went forward in Ballymena.

On May 28th, 1859, he went to Belfast. During the first week there were meetings held in five different Presbyterian Churches, and from that time the blessed work commenced at Belfast. In all these visits he was accompanied and helped by Mr. Jeremiah Meneely, one of the three young men who first met with him, after the reading of my Narrative. From this time the work of the Holy Ghost spread further and further; for the young converts were used by the Lord to carry the truth from one place to another.

“Such was the beginning of that mighty work of the Holy Spirit, which has led to the conversion of hundreds of thousands; for some of my readers will remember how in 1859 this fire was kindled in England, Wales and Scotland; how it spread through Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland; how the Continent of Europe was more or less partaking of this mighty working of the Holy Spirit; how it led thousands to give themselves to the work of Evangelists; and how up to the year 1874 not only the effects of this work, first begun in Ireland, are felt, but that still more or less this blessed work is going on in Europe generally. It is almost needless to add, that in no degree the honour is due to the instruments, but to the Holy Spirit alone; yet these facts are stated, in order that it may be seen, what delight God has in answering abundantly the believing prayer of His children.”