"But the angel said, Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer" (Luke 1: 13) . . . "Zechariah said to the angel, How can I be sure this will happen?" (Luke 1:18)
Too often, many of us pray without the expectation of our prayers being answered. I know this because, many of us are simply amazed/awe struck/surprised when God replies to our petitions. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were a righteous, blameless couple who obeyed the Lord (Luke 1:6). For years, as this couple grew old, they prayed for a child to carry on the family name. In the midst of worship (Luke 1: 9.10), it was revealed to Zechariah that God was going to grant him the desire of his heart, a son.
However, much like us, his faith had a "conflict against the most inward and secret vanities of the soul" (Thomas Brooks, "A Cabinet of Choice Jewels" 1669). Zechariah allowed his circumstances (his wife was beyond childbearing age) to muddle his belief of what he knew God can do instead of remembering the seemingly impossible God made possible in the lives of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:17, Genesis 18:14). And, that is where the essential problem lies when we pray, we forget what God has already done for us, our family, and what the Word says.
It is difficult for me to conceptualize that one can live one way and pray another. We are faithful in service, practice, and worship; yet, our prayers are faithless, insincere words we utter out of obligation to upholding the Christian image. John Bunyan wrote, "In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart." Prayer is not a meaningless, ritualistic show. For the Christian, prayer is a pleading offered as a sacrifice unto to the Lord with a heart and mind that have been purified by the Holy Spirit. As a result of this cleansing, our words/mumblings/silence are laid before the alter of God with patience, humility and anticipation that our response will be for our good but for His glory.
"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go" (Abraham Lincoln). If this is true, then why do we go to our knees thinking that nothing is going to happen? There is power in real prayer. This power reaffirms our need for God, knocks us off of our carnal paths, and matures our faith by teaching us to totally trust His word and depend upon Him for everything. Not to mention, when God answers prayers, He does so with a wholeness that is beyond our understanding. So, praise Him in advance for knowing what we need and not simply giving us what we want on our terms and our timing.