True confession: Sometimes I get discouraged about praying the same request for a long time with no apparent answer from God. I get tempted to give up. Sometimes I actually do give up. I'm not proud of that. But there's an incident in the Christmas story that encourages me about that.
Remember Zechariah? Despite being a priest, his faith was sort of like mine--inconsistent. Unlike Mary who believed the angel when he told her she'd have a Son, Zechariah, when given a similar announcement, declared it basically impossible. And we know what happened. He got his son anyhow, though God struck him mute until the birth because of his unbelief.
But here's the part I missed until I read the story afresh this year: Zechariah's son was born in answer to his prayers! Yes, that's what the angel said. "Don't be afraid, Zechariah! For God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son!" (Luke 1:13, NLT).
Wait a minute! If Zechariah had been praying, how come he didn't believe when the answer to his prayer was announced? I have to assume it's because he'd prayed it years earlier, when he and Elizabeth were young enough to make childbearing seem like a reasonable possibility. I suppose when menopause set in, Zechariah assumed that God wasn't going to come through for the so he gave up praying.
But even though on this point Zechariah may have given up on God, God didn't give up on Zechariah. He still counted Zechariah's prayer legitimate and answered it, albeit many years after he'd stopped praying.
In the end, it's God who gets glory, not the prayer warrior. "If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself" (2 Timothy 2:13).
Obviously that doesn't mean I want to have flimsy faith. But it does mean that it doesn't all depend on me. And that takes a lot of pressure off. God is faithful even when I'm not! That's just one more piece of the good news we celebrate in this season of glad tidings.