By Andi Hines
Today in our Abiding study we’re reading a Gospel account of two ordinary people whose relationships with God in prayer were profound. One man, Simeon, and one woman, Anna, would experience the greatest of blessings as they saw the Christ Child (Luke 2:22-38). As their story begins, we see that Joseph and Mary had taken Baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for traditional rites. Upon entering the temple, Jesus was recognized as the Messiah by not one person, but two.
The first witness, Simeon, was a just and devout man, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Simeon was waiting in the temple for the consolation of Israel, and at once, he recognized the Child! He praised God that he had seen the Lord’s salvation before his death, just as the Holy Spirit had confirmed he would. His joy for the blessing of seeing the Christ Child was profound:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32
The second witness was Anna of whom Scripture tells us “is very old.” She was not mentioned here because she was royalty, or because she was rich, or because she had beauty beyond belief. She was mentioned because she was, at one time, just like us. She grew up and married. She must have looked forward to a life with her husband and a home full of children to raise and love. But seven years into married life, and with no child born, she was widowed. The focus of her life, her heart, had to change. She never remarried, but chose to live out her life in the offering of prayers and fastings to the Lord. There, in the temple that day, she was granted the blessing of recognizing the Child, the Messiah. Her praise to the Lord was spontaneous.
This passage is about two average people, a man and a woman, who were given the special blessing of recognizing the Messiah. The ordinary activities of that morning likely gave neither Simeon nor Anna the slightest hint of the wonder they were about to realize. Imagine their surprise when that ordinary day turned into the day they would never forget.
I have been surprised occasionally by God. Maybe you have, too? I’m sometimes surprised that God so boldly impresses upon me the affirmation of a prayer I offered months, or even years, before. However, my surprise rarely sounds like the praise of Anna or Simeon.
Praise is an expression of approval, an acknowledgment that an omniscient, almighty God has heard, answered, and given us awareness of HIs answers, which can encourage and bless us as they did for Anna and Simeon.
How does a prayer of praise begin? Not by gushy, effusive, unrestrained hollers rolling off the tip of your tongue. No, instead the biblical record of Simeon’s and Anna’s praise is simple. Of Simeon’s response, we read that he was ready to die having seen the Messiah. Anna’s response also expresses not only the amazing gift of recognizing the Child but now her immediate desire is to tell all who wondered about the reality that the Promised One was now among them.
Even on days when life must have been challenging, Anna had been faithful. She believed the Lord was good, even when her own life had been turned upside down and denied her children and a lifetime of growing old with the man she loved.
She was knowledgeable in the traditions of faith in her day. She recognized the Child, not because she was mystic but because God saw her worthy of that blessing. She was given the vision of the Child long before others would recognize Him, or His work.
What this story tells us is that God hears us when we pray. He hears not only our words but our heart. He is faithful to encourage, bless, and reward. He hears our crazy prayers, those that are led by our deep suffering or sadness, and even our everyday, routine prayers. He is always with us and knows when we pray, even when those prayers come from a place so painful that we don’t even recognize we are praying. He hears us because He is always listening. To Him our habit of prayer — no matter where and no matter when — represents our faithfulness to believe in Him, and that results in great spiritual growth and nearness to Him.
Father, My heart is often distracted and called away by little and big things. But You. Father, are constant. You aren’t distracted. You are always keenly aware of my circumstances and are watching and listening to my prayers. You are always faithful. Thank you for being Who You are. Amen.