Summary: Through prayer, we can be sure to be where we need to be when we need to be there in order to be in on what God is doing.
We’ve noticed how this passage speaks of three sets of individuals who are an example of what needs to be true of us if we’re going to be in on what God is doing in our day. We’ve looked at the importance of the Word-filled life, as we considered Joseph and Mary. Then we thought about the importance of the Spirit-filled life, as we looked to Simeon. Now, I want to consider Anna, who is an example of the importance of the Prayer-filled life.
While we’re told less about what Anna said compared to Simeon, we’re given more information on her background. Anna was an Israelite, of the tribe of Asher, one of the ten “lost tribes” of Israel, which were scattered in the Assyrian captivity.
She was married 7 years before her husband died and lived the rest of her life as a widow. She was at least 84 years old, depending on how we understand Luke’s words. It’s possible Luke is saying she had been a widow for 84 years. However we understand the text, it’s clear that Luke is saying that Anna had been a widow for the majority of her life.
Like Mary, Joseph and Simeon, Anna was where she needed to be when she needed to be in order to be in on what God was doing, because hers was a prayer-filled life. Three thoughts:
1. Anna’s prayer life was priority - vs. 36-37a
As a young widow, the natural thing for Anna to have done would be to remarry. She must have had many such opportunities. As a member of the lost tribe of Asher, there must have been a strong incentive to marry and bear children, since this tribe may have been in danger of extinction. Her greatest womanly contribution, as well as her womanly fulfillment, would seem to have been marriage and child-bearing. Nevertheless, she remained single, lived out her life in the temple, occupied with prayer and fasting. Anna likely was a widow as
described by Paul in 1 Timothy 5:1-5:
“Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God. Now a true widow, a woman who is truly alone in this world, has placed her hope in God. She prays night and day, asking God for his help.” - 1 Timothy 5:1-5 (NIV)
Anna’s prayer life was priority because she recognized the need within her. She had no one else but God, so she looked to no one else but God. But, “when you have no one else but God, you realize that God is enough.” Anna had grown satisfied with God alone to meet her needs, and consequently, made spending time in prayer a priority.
“If we never gained anything from prayer but the communion with God that prayer really is, that should be sufficient to make prayer a constant thing. Imagine the reality when you pray of entering into the very throne room and communing with the living God of the universe. And you have understood some gift so marvelous that if that were all there was to prayer it would be sufficient to draw us to pray constantly.” - John MacArthur
That’s what was true of Anna; that’s what needs to be true of us. We need to settle on the fact that without God we have nothing; but with God, we have everything. And if that is truly the case, then we will make prayer a priority.
As believers we are either centered on ourselves or centered on God. There is no alternative. Either God is the center of our universe and we have become rightly adjusted to Him, or we have made ourselves the center and are attempting to make all else orbit around us and for us.
God was the center of Anna’s universe, consequently spending time with God was something she delighted to do, which enabled her to be sure she would be in one what god was doing.
“Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you know what His will is.” - Amy Carmichael
2. Anna’s prayer life was passionate - v. 37b
What was the source of Anna’s passion in prayer?
We are told that Anna was a prophetess. This means that she, like Simeon, had a burden about the coming of Messiah. No doubt, Anna understood from the Old Testament that the “day of the Lord” was a day of judgment, and that Messiah would come to deal with Israel’s sin. Thus, her prayer and fasting was evidence of her mourning for the sins of Israel and her burden for herself and others. Anna’s prayer life was passionate because she recognized the need around her.