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Faith Daily | 19 December 2022

PRAYER of the DAY - APBA p468

O Lord,

raise up your power and come among us,

and with great might succour us,

that, whereas through our sins and wickedness

we are sore let and hindered

in running the race that is set before us,

your bountiful grace and mercy

may speedily help and deliver us;

through your Son our Lord,

to whom with you and the Holy Spirit

be honour and glory, now and for ever.


GOSPEL for the Day: Luke 1: 5-25

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ 18Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ 19The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’


It is estimated that there were about 18,000 priests at the time of today’s reading. They were divided into 24 cohorts, so there were about 750 in each one. Each division served in the temple for 2 weeks a year. One of the temple duties was to burn the incense in the sanctuary at the time of the daily prayers (at about 9am and 3pm). The priest was chosen by lot. A priest could only offer the incense once in his lifetime, and most didn’t get the opportunity. How thrilled Zachariah would have been when the lot fell to him. The sanctuary was not the Holy of Holies, (where only the high priest entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement), but just outside it. Zachariah would have gone in alone to burn the incense and to pray for Israel.

The priest offering the incense would pray that God would remember, bless, give peace to and redeem His people. He prayed that God would send His Messiah. When Gabriel says that Zachariah’s prayers have been answered, I think he is referring to the prayers that he was saying then, not prayers for a child. He and Elizabeth had probably stopped asking God for a child long ago, and given up all hope of becoming parents.

It was about 400 years since God had spoken to His people. Through the prophet Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament), He had said “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me….” (3:1) and, “I will send the prophet Elijah to you….” (4:5). These words were now being fulfilled.

When Elizabeth discovered that she was pregnant , she said, “The Lord has done this.“ It was only the start of what God was doing!


Merciful God,

who sent your messenger John the Baptist

to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:

give us grace to heed his warning and forsake our sins,

that we may greet with joy the coming of our Redeemer,

Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.


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