Spirit-Inspired Prayer (Luke 1:57-80)

The eight-day-old baby needs naming. It is tradition to wait for this day. Friends and family are gathered around the grey-haired first-time parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is strange how Zechariah has remained unable to speak these past nine months, but now, more than ever, he needs a voice; it is time to name his infant son.

Some well-meaning friends speak up, happy to speak his mind for him.

“Little Zechariah”, they murmur approvingly to one another. His tiny wrinkled face looks so much like his father’s.

“No! He is to be called Jochanan (John)!” insists Elizabeth. The group freezes in surprise. This childbearing must have been too much for the elderly woman. What foolishness is she speaking? Does she not know the traditional method of naming children? Who in this family was ever named Jochanan? Someone snatches a writing tablet and thrusts it toward Zechariah. If you cannot speak sense for your old wife, at least write it!

“His name”, the old man’s stylus scratches into the waxy tablet, “is Jochanan”. And like a bird breaking free from its snare, words pour from his mouth in praise of God. Fruitful wombs and mute tongues rejoicing can only be the work of God’s Spirit.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

Why is the aged priest now speaking of God’s faithfulness through David? The people’s king of centuries before was from the Hebrew tribe of Judah, but this baby, Jochanan, is from the tribe of Levi. Has fatherhood addled the mind of this old man? Does he not remember a father’s blessing over his firstborn son must refer to that son?

All in good time. Zechariah, we are told, is prophesying under the impulse of the Holy Spirit. ‘Redeemer’ and ‘horn of salvation’ refers to another baby imminently due to be born of a virgin. Zechariah’s newborn son is merely a forerunner of the greater Son coming into the world. He refers to the other baby as ‘the rising sun (who) will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in the darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Zechariah’s benediction begins with Christ. It looks back to an ancient oath sworn to Abraham, a promise to King David and a covenant to a world of people who will accept it. Prayer is like that when the Spirit of God is in us. Spirit-driven prayer speaks truth. It opens our eyes to the works of God that we might so easily overlook. It shows us divine plans have priority over our small pedestrian ideas. Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, our prayers and our small steps of obedience to God’s Word allow His Spirit to indelibly inscribe truth into our lives. Our minds become less ‘me-focused’ and more ‘Christ-focused’. He begins to use us in ways we never thought possible.

Come, O Spirit of Truth, O Father of Lights, O Redeeming Son. Inspire our prayers. Speak truth through our mute tongues; guide our feet into the path of peace and set us free to serve you all our days.


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