Draw near to God and He will near to you. James 4:8
When we seek to come close to God, to draw near to Him, we have assurance through the Scripture, that He will draw near to us. As we peer into His Word, seeking to follow the Way of Christ in order to come close, we are first introduced to two people who did just that. Today we look at the prayers of Mary and Zechariah who came close to God, to whom God drew even closer.
Although much can be said in comparison about the descriptions of the angelic encounters of Mary and Zechariah in the opening chapter of Luke’s gospel, for our purposes here, we will focus on the prayers that each offered up in response to God.
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
The fact that both prayers reference Old Testament scripture speaks to the familiarity and deep understanding that each must have had of the verses recited in worship. Although Zechariah, a member of the priestly family, was probably able to read the verses from the Torah, it is unlikely that Mary did. Even if “reading” God’s Word were possible, neither would have had a Torah in their homes to “reference” before prayer. These prayers, offered spontaneously up to God in praise and glory, utilized scripture that had long been planted in their hearts. Commentaries point to Mary’s Song and its similarity to Hannah’s prayer in the Old Testament. I often wonder if Mary had heard that prayer and liked it so much, that she studied it, perhaps had prayed some of the words before. Of course, we do not know, but typically, when praying, sometimes favorite or familiar verses come to mind, we might pray them often.
When Mary and Zachariah offer up their songs to God, they choose to use His own words to honor and glorify Him. I love this! God is perfect, His Word is perfect. What better offering of praise could we give back to Him other than HIS very Word? In fact, their praise using the perfect Word was in response to the Living Word being given to them! They recognized what was happening, what was about to happen. When Mary and Zechariah gave this offering of prayer, they did so with the best they had…the Perfect word of God. Later, the very best God has, Jesus, the Living Word, would be offered, sacrificed, for them!
In these songs we see, too, that they point back to God’s acts of grace over his people while at the same time point towards His ultimate act of grace and mercy through Christ. By studying these prayers, we see that Mary and Zachariah were faithful in their “drawing near” to God in everyday life. To hear, know, cherish, and hold dear His Word took effort, time, and regular focus on knowing God more intimately. These were not the only prayers ever uttered by them, nor, I suspect, the only time they had prayed scripture. If we seek to draw near to God in prayer, we can follow the example given to us, like Mary did in praying some of Hannah’s words. Like them, we can begin with praise and adoration of the things God has done for us and what He continues to do. As we do this, we become more aware of His drawing near to US and can be thankful that Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the WAY for this connection with Him.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for the privilege of drawing close to you. Help us to pray, as Mary and Zechariah did, with open hearts and in glory and honor to you. May we always remember your faithfulness to us both in the past and in the future. Teach us to rely on your perfect word to glorify and praise you. Most of all, may we remember that Your Perfect Word made flesh in your son, Jesus, that draws us nearer and nearer to you. Amen.