This week we celebrate the marvelous fact that our Creator loved us so much that he wanted to take on human flesh and be one of us. To use Eugene Peterson’s translation of John 1:14
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
This was on the heart of the Father from the very beginning. In His infinite love, He purposed this glorious event. He revealed it to his prophets.
“Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
But are we aware of the role prayer played in bringing this wondrous event to fruition? John Wesley once said “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” Is this an accurate assessment of reality according to scripture?
The Role of Prayer in the Birth of John the Baptist
Luke’s Gospel gives a wonderfully detailed account of the incarnation, providing a context and framework for the glorious event. This was Luke’s intent:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke1: 1-4)
What does Luke tell us about the role of prayer in the incarnation narrative?
The first mention of prayer in this Gospel is found in 1:10
“And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.”
Next mention is in verse 13:
“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.”
A praise report from Elizabeth (acknowledging answered prayer) is recorded in verse 25:
“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.”
The Role of Prayer in the Birth of Jesus
In Luke chapter 2:36-38, the prayer warrior Anna is given honorable mention:
“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
There are many other references to prayer for God to fulfill His Messianic plan and purpose that I will not take time to mention in this post. Luke’s account just gives us the tip of the iceberg in mentioning the role of prayer. I would surmise at this point that prayer was a given. It was an integrated component of the landscape of God’s working on the hearts of His people.
Our takeaway should be that in issues both large and small, God wants us to pray, to call out to Him in faith. We need not try and explain the mystery or argue the point as to whether God needs us to pray in order to do His work. The fact is, He desires it. That is enough.