How to Ask God a Question
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)
Mark Galli writes in God Wins:
So what’s the difference here? The questions are so similar. Why is Mary’s treated with respect while Zechariah’s is an occasion for spiritual discipline? Why does the angel seem indifferent to Mary’s natural curiosity and angry about Zechariah’s?
The difference appears in one little additional clause Zechariah adds to his question. Mary simply asks, “How can this happen?” Zechariah asks, “How can I be sure this will happen?”
Mary’s question is about God. Zechariah’s question is about himself.
Mary’s question assumes God will do something good and great, and seeks to know how it will unfold. Zechariah is not at all sure that God is good and great, and seeks proof.
Mary wants to learn more about the goodness of God. Zechariah mostly wants to be self-assured.
As I said, there are questions, and then there are questions.
As these two stories show, questions driven by faith and questions driven by self-justification can sound very similar. Sometimes they can be identical in their wording, but they are not identical in their motives. A question can be grounded in trust in God’s goodness—or it can be a demand for a sign. God is pleased with the former, but not so pleased with the latter.
You can read the whole excerpt from the book here.