Zechariah’s Prayer and The Magnificat
Questions to Consider
1. To acclimate yourself to the book of Luke, you may wish to use this synopsis (or another Bible Book Background). Today’s lesson will focus on Zechariah’s and Mary’s prayers in Luke 1. The remainder of chapter 1 is provided for context and backstory.
2. In your own words, briefly summarize the events of chapter 1. What does the Latin word magnificat mean?
3. Examine Zechariah’s interaction with Gabriel (11-20).
After telling Zechariah not to be afraid (13), what is the very next thing Gabriel says to him? Where is Zechariah’s prayer for a child? Is it fair to infer from Gabriel’s statement in 13 that Zechariah and Elizabeth had, at some point in their years of barrenness (7), been praying for a child? Considering their advanced age (7,18) do you think they were still praying for a child, or is it possible they had assumed by this time that God had said “no” to their prayers?
What can we learn about the way and timing in which God answers prayer from His answer to Zechariah’s prayer? Suppose God had answered Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayers for a child on their timetable: when they were young and Elizabeth had no track record of barrenness. How was God’s timing and His way of answering better? It’s often said that God typically answers prayer in one of three ways: “Yes,” “No,” and “Not right now.” Explain how God answered Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayer for a child in all three of these ways over the years of their marriage.
4. Keeping Zechariah’s interaction with Gabriel in mind, examine Mary’s interaction with Gabriel (26-38). Carefully read the words Gabriel spoke. Does he say, as he said to Zechariah, that Mary’s prayers had been answered? Would it be reasonable to think, from this passage, that Mary had been praying for a child? Why not?
5. In Matthew 6:8, regarding prayer, Jesus said: “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” How does this concept apply to the timing and the way God answered Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayer, and how does it apply to God choosing Mary to be the mother of Jesus when she never in a million years would have thought to pray for such a thing?
6. Compare Zechariah’s response to Gabriel, and the consequences of his response (18-20), to Mary’s response to Gabriel (29,34,38). What reason did Gabriel give in 20b for “muting” Zechariah? Compare this to Elizabeth’s characterization of Mary’s response to Gabriel. (45) What part did belief play in both Zechariah’s and Mary’s response to Gabriel?
Read these verses. How do they apply to Zechariah (and his response), a mature man, and a priest educated in the Scriptures, as compared to Mary (and her response), a young, inexperienced, uneducated girl? Explain how God’s knowledge of each of their hearts and minds was reflected in the consequences He inflicted on Zechariah, versus the lack of consequences for Mary.
7. Examine Mary’s prayer in verses 46-55. Breaking it down into three sections, what does Mary focus on in each of these sections?
Describe how Mary praises God for what He has done for her personally. (46-49) Which attributes of God’s nature and character does Mary shine the spotlight on in 50-53?
Using your cross-references and your knowledge of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, explain what Mary is referring to in 54-55. Why would this be a cause for praise for Mary and for Israel? In these verses, Mary declares God’s goodness for keeping His promises to His people. Is there a way we can biblically echo this prayer this side of the cross? What are some promises God has made the church as a whole that we can extol Him for keeping?
Think about the way you usually pray and the corporate (group) prayers you participate in at church. Which elements (ex: praise, supplication, thanksgiving, confession of sin, etc.) that you/your church usually include in your prayers are also included in Mary’s prayer? Which are absent? Does a prayer have to include supplication (asking God for something) for it to really be considered a prayer?
Explain how Mary’s prayer can serve as an example for our own prayers of praise and exultation.
8. Zechariah’s words in 68-79 are characterized as prophecy, but do you see any similarities to prayer in what he says and how he says it? Compare Zechariah’s words here to Mary’s prayer in 46-55. What are some similarities? Differences?
Even though Mary does focus part of her prayer (46-49) on what God has done for her personally, do you get a sense from both her prayer and Zechariah’s prophecy that they are focused on the bigger, more grandiose picture of what God is doing for His people in redemptive history? Compare this with the way we usually pray. It’s absolutely fine and biblical to pray about our own personal needs, but is it possible we focus too much on the personal in our prayers and not enough on the big picture of what God is accomplishing in redemptive history through the church? What are some things we could pray about, both individually and corporately, that would shift our focus in that direction?
This week, model some of your prayers after Mary’s prayer:
- praise God for what He has done for you personally
- extol the nature and character of God
- praise Him for what He has done through redemptive history and the promises He has kept to His church.
Suggested Memory Verse