Do you have a prayer you’ve given up praying? I do.
Maybe you’ve poured your heart out to God, pleading for things to change until you’ve got nothing left. Perhaps you’ve prayed fervently, pleadingly, even fasted, gathering others around you, but still…nothing. So you simply stopped, your energy to pray eroded by the silence and your unchanging circumstances. And then weeks or months later you realize you’ve simply given up. If that’s you, I get it, so I want to share something that’s totally transformed how I view these abandoned prayers.
Remember Zechariah and Elizabeth? They were God-fearing, praying, worshipping folk who served God yet knew how it felt for their prayers to go unanswered. Despite years of prayer, Elizabeth remained childless. Scripture tells us that her and Zechariah eventually gave up and stopped asking.
We’re not told how quickly they gave up, whether their prayers slowly petered out or in a moment of painful resignation as Elizabeth discovered a few gray hairs and sweated through her first hot flashes, they refused to pray another prayer, any remaining hope forever snuffed out. Either way, theirs was a prayer they’d stopped praying.
The rest of the story is familiar; how an angel of the Lord showed up in the temple while Zechariah was serving and said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” Luke 1:13 (NIV) Zechariah was struck mute, Elizabeth became pregnant, and when their son, John, was born, Zechariah’s voice returned. It’s a story of encouragement many of us are familiar with.
However, what escaped me was a tiny footnote to the Greek word the angel uses for “prayer”. When I read it, it rocked my prayer life and everything changed. The tiny note explained how one translation for the word “prayer” that the angel uses is “the prayer you don’t even pray anymore.”
So when the angel tells Zechariah his prayer has been heard, what he’s actually saying is, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer—the one you don’t even pray anymore—has been heard.”
It means God heard the prayer that Zechariah and Elizabeth had given up on long ago. It means that God hears the prayers we don’t even pray anymore.
It’s wild and wonderful! I’ve no idea how it works, but God hears the desires of our hearts that we don’t have the energy, confidence, or faith to utter as prayers anymore.
Yes, we can and must continue to come to God with these desires—persevering, confident we are seen, heard and loved—but when we lose heart and those prayers fade, peter out, or we abandon them for easier ones, we can remain confident that God has already heard them and continues to hear them.
Let’s pray today’s prayers with new energy, and with confidence that yesterday’s prayers still live on.
Friend, your prayers are not forgotten. You are not forgotten.
No matter what you’re praying about today, I invite you to come to God with renewed confidence and consider how your prayers might look different in light of this story and this one tiny footnote.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If cancer has touched your family, never give up on praying. God is listening.
Niki Hardy is an author, speaker, podcast host, and cancer thriver. Through her books, including Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart, her podcast, Chemo Chair Prayers, and her Trusting God Through Cancer Summit, Niki helps you discover that life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full. She and her husband, Al, have three almost grown-up kids and two lovely but rather stupid Goldendoodles. When she’s not writing or speaking, you can find Niki running trails with her dogs or having tea with a friend.
You can connect with Niki at nikihardy.com
Niki’s new book, One-Minute Prayers for Women With Cancer is out now. With wisdom, insight, empathy, and yes, a little humor, Niki helps you transform fear into faith and navigate the ups and downs of your cancer journey. You can experience God’s peace and provision during this challenging time.