God doesn't throw our prayers away. He doesn't forget them. He plans to answer them. We just have to give Him the time He, we and the circumstances need.
In the above verse, there are two people involved, Zacharias and Elizabeth. I am guessing here but I think Zacharias had given up on having a child because he questioned Gabriel.
He said to the angel, How shall I know this for certain? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years. (Luke 1:18)
That took guts. Angels are pretty intimidating in person (every time they appear they tell people not to fear). Gabriel was even surprised at Zacharias' doubt. He responds to him, I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God;
I think Elizabeth must have kept hoping somewhere inside her. She must have had a tiny bit of faith hidden away. And God honored it.
without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for he who comes to God must beleive that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Why did He honor it after so many years? That's what He does! And why did He wait so long to give her a son?
Part of the reason I think is because of how connected all of our lives our, how we are all part of God's story. Gabriel uses Elizabeth's pregnancy to validate his words to Mary and to encourage her to believe that she, though a virgin, would conceive God's Son.
And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:36-37)
God still works this way. Sometimes answers to our prayers may take longer because of how other people will be affected by those answers. God trusted Elizabeth to keep believing even when her situation became impossible. And I think sometimes He does that with us now too.
He knows it's hard to believe no matter what, but He knows when if we believe this way nothing will stop us from having incredible lives in Him. So, He stretches us for our benefit and for other people's benefits.
People are watching you. Your life speaks to them. You are a living parable to others.
What is your life saying?
(also, if you have time, check out this week's Perfectly Blunt column at: http://capjournal.com/articles/2011/07/13/opinions/perfectly_blunt/doc4e1cd43ba6657809049122.txt)