The Prayer of Faith - Habakkuk 3:1-16

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Introduction - The Nature of Prayer

Have you ever stopped to think of prayer and what prayer is?
Prayer is simple. It is communication. There is a sense in which if you can communicate with your spouse, or with a friend or a sibling, then prayer is something you can do, because it is communication with God. There is a simplicity to it where God invites us to come and talk with Him.
While prayer is simple, there is also a seriousness to prayer. Prayer is simple enough for a child to talk with God with his or her own limited vocabulary, to pour their little hearts out to God. But prayer is also complex enough to cause the most educated man to struggle with the right words to say as he seeks to approach a holy and righteous God.
This is where we find Habakkuk.
In Chapter 1, we find Habakkuk coming before God and letting loose his feelings and his complaints to God about the desperate situation he finds himself in. But here in Chapter 3, Habakkuk’s posture and tone changes before God. As we look at his prayer, we see that it is more than him just letting loose his words and emotions. Here he is carefully writing down his prayer in a thoughtful and calculated way. We as Baptists tend to reel against the idea of planning out and writing out prayers. There is prayer that is spontaneous and communication takes place in the moment. But there are also forms of communication that takes careful thought and planning. Writing a letter to your love while you are apart, does not make that communication less meaningful because it is not spontaneous. Often, it can make it much more meaningful because of the careful thought it takes to craft the words and thoughts in just the right way.
Habakkuk has written down this prayer of faith in the form of a song or poem for the people of God to sing together. There is great thought and faith and meaning pouring forth through this prayer that you and I can learn from as we seek to relate to God ourselves.
Read Habakkuk 3:1-16
Habakkuk 3:1–16 (ESV)
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth. O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.
Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels.
He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low.
His were the everlasting ways. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation?
You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah
You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high.
The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear.
You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger.
You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed.
You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah
You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.
You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters. I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

I. Praying in Humility (v. 2, 16)

First, we note humility in Habakkuk’s prayer of faith here in chapter three.
If we compare this prayer with the two prayers in chapter one, we can note a significant difference in how Habakkuk approaches God here.
In Habakkuk 1, he asks, “how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear?” Why won’t you do anything God? Why are you silent?
In his second prayer, he asks, “why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”
Now, these aren’t bad prayers to pray when we are struggling with what is going around us. God invites us into His presence and He wants us to present our requests to Him and to be honest with Him about our feelings and thoughts.
Habakkuk, however, has come a long way since the Lord’s second answer to his complaints. Now he says, “I have heard of you and your work and in you do I fear.” Or stand in awe and reverence of who You are and what You have done.
And then even in Habakkuk 3:16
Habakkuk 3:16 (ESV)
I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.
What has happened? Habakkuk was able to shift his eyes from himself and his situation to God. Often times, what we perceive as silence or inaction from God is simply the fact that we have kept our eyes focused on the wrong direction. We are looking at ourselves or on other people instead of directing them to God and looking at what He is doing. Habakkuk has learned to humble himself and realize life isn’t ultimately about himself or about his people in Judah.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself. Humility is thinking of yourself less and thinking of others more. Biblical humility is thinking of yourself less and keeping your focus on God. Habakkuk has come to this point of realization in his life. He is now focused on God and sees that He is working and active in the world and he is even accepting of what God has chosen to do.

II. Praising God’s Glory (v. 2, 3-15)

Habakkuk’s humility leads to him acknowledging God’s glory. What is glory? Glory is the display of someone’s worth and magnificence. Literally, in Hebrew, glory means weight. Habakkuk, as he focuses on who God is and what He is doing sees the weight and the worthiness of God and he begins to worship the Lord in this prayer of faith.
In fact, the term worship, comes from the idea of worth-ship. We worship whatever we believe has the greatest worth, value, or weightiness in life. When we get our eyes off of ourselves and place it on God, we begin to see His weightiness and His Worthiness for our Worship.
Again, Habakkuk writes, I have heard of you and your work do I fear. I stand in awe and amazement of who You are and what You have done. And then in verses 3-15 he recounts God’s display of power and salvation for His people. He does his recounting of God’s glory and of His faithfulness, not in the most obvious ways, but in some of the most poetic ways possible. In verse 3, he speaks of God coming from Teman and from Mount Paran. These are references to the area of Sinai and recounting how God met with His people there at Mt. Sinai. And His splendor covered the heavens and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light and rays flashed from his hand. Habakkuk is referring to the Shekinah glory of God, both in how God led His people through the wilderness in the cloud by day and the fire by night and also how God’s presence covered the mountain as Moses went up to meet with him. God’s presence was so powerful and overwhelming that the people begged for Moses to meet with God on their behalf because they knew that being in the presence of this powerful God would mean their destruction.
We see Habakkuk recount God’s display of His glory as he brought the plagues upon Egypt and His power over all the earth. In verse 8 he recounts God dividing the Red Sea in the rescue of His people and in verse 11, Habakkuk remember’s God salvation for His people when the sun stood still for the day as God gave victory to Joshua and the people over their enemies.
This is a song and prayer of praise and worship as Habakkuk remembers that God has been very active in the life of His people, faithfully bringing salvation to them. So God has never been silent or inactive. He has always worked for the good of His people.
Habakkuk is praising God for His glory and faithfulness. In fact, his prayers in chapter one were more about complaining about what God wasn’t doing and presenting all of his complaints and requests. But now, he is simply praising God for who He is and what He has done, knowing God is going to continue to act faithfully towards His people even in the midst of discipline.
One of the best ways we can pray in faith is by reminding ourselves of who God is and what He has done for us in the past. Remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness to us in the past and that even as hardship comes, He will not leave us nor forsake us. I remember someone telling us that as we go through life, to pay attention to how God has faithfully brought you through a difficult time and find an item or an object to remind you of that. The Israelites would set up Ebenezers, “stones of remembrance” to help them remember what God had done for them. In the same way, we want to remember what God has done for us so we can continue to praise Him and keep our eyes on Him even when things get dark and we can’t seem to hear Him. Preach to yourself and remind yourself of the goodness of God in all situations.

III. Promoting God’s Work (v. 2)

Next, Habakkuk’s prayer of faith moves from Habakkuk asking God to do what Habakkuk wants to asking God to continue and revive what God wants to do. It is getting to that point where we say, God here is my request, but whatever you are willing to do, Lord, that is what we truly want. If we know that God is good and faithful in all He does, then we know that God’s work is better than anything we can imagine or ask for.
Before, Habakkuk was asking why God wasn’t do anything, aka, why wasn’t God doing what Habakkuk wanted. God why aren’t you sending revival? Why aren’t you dealing with the wickedness of sinners? Why aren’t you doing what I want you to do?
But as Habakkuk got his eyes off of himself and his immediate situation, and put his eyes on God and began to praise God for his past faithfulness and his past work of salvation did he realize God has been at work all along.
And Habakkuk remembered that God always does what is best to display His glory and to work for the good of His people, even if that means doing so in ways that might be hard and painful.
God is working towards the righteousness of His people. He is working towards salvation and revival. But sometimes revival does not happen in the midst of church services. Sometimes revival happens in the midst of persecution as God’s people are forced to turn their hearts and petitions back to God.
Habakkuk realizes that the work God said He is doing by sending the Chaldeans to conquer His people is God’s discipline towards them in order to stop the wickedness taking place and to bring revival to His people. So God is in essence doing what Habakkuk wanted, but He is doing so in a much different way than Habakkuk thought.
Last week, we looked at Ephesians 6 and talked about the role of father’s in bringing our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We saw that a loving father doesn’t just give his kids everything they think they want. A loving father is one who does what is necessary for the good of his kids and to help them grow in righteousness and their love for Jesus.
Which means both teaching and discipline are necessary, and discipline can be unpleasant. It is unpleasant for both my children and myself when there are negative consequences that occur for my children’s actions. And yet, because of my love for them and my desire for them to grow to love God with all their hearts to and to look more like Jesus, I will discipline them when necessary.
However, teaching can also be unpleasant. Sometimes learning can be difficult because it means denying ourselves something that we think we want, but what will not be good for us.
Last spring, towards the end of our Awana year, one of our T&T leaders put together a progressive dinner for all of our 3rd - 6th graders. We would go around to ten different fast food restaurants and we would have an item from one of those places. It included a drink from Bush’s Chicken, rolled tacos from Taco Bell, bread sticks from a pizza place, hamburger from Wendy’s, an actual taco from Jack in the Box, and you get the picture, with it ending up with a banana split from Dairy Queen. As much fun as that would seem for the kids, it actually ended up being a painful lesson for my son. He was doing good until the end, when it just became too much for him to keep eating. He ended up with a terrible stomach ache by the end of the night, and since then has begun to listen to us when we tell him that he might need to stop eating for a while. While it might seem that we are denying him something pleasant, he has learned that when we deny him something that seems good, it really is for his good and benefit and he learned that because of the pain of the experience of eating too much at one time. Pain is never fun, but it can be used for good to develop us into the people God wants us to become.
It is under the light of this understanding that Habakkuk is now praying, God, revive your work. If this is what is going to take to bring revival to your people, then let the Chaldeans come and I will patiently wait for the day of trouble for them because I know you are working all things for your glory and for our good.
Habakkuk could only look forward to the work God was accomplishing, but we can look back and see that what God was working towards was the salvation of the world. Through God’s good work, He brought Jesus in to live the perfect life. But Jesus did not just come as a teacher or example. He came as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. In fact, we even see Jesus pray, “If possible, let this cup pass from me, but not my will but Yours be done.” Jesus endured suffering and hardship to bring about the greatest good this world has ever seen. The disciples were left stunned and dismayed by the way God chose to work. But as we look back, we see that without this work of God, we would be left with no hope.
Let us, with Habakkuk, pray that God would revive the work He has chosen to complete, not necessarily our work, among us, knowing that it is ultimately for our good, even if it might be painful for a time.

IV. Petitioning for Mercy (v. 2)

Finally, a prayer of faith, while it is focused primarily on who God is and praying for His will, it does not mean that we cannot present our requests to Him. Habakkuk brings a request to God that will fit within God’s will, because Habakkuk knows and understands God’s character.
Habakkuk has come to terms with the way God is choosing to do things in bringing revival to His people. He knows God’s work is always good even if he doesn’t always understand what is going on.
However, Habakkuk also understands that God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. So as Habakkuk has come to grips that what God is doing by bring the Chaldeans to Judah is for His glory and for their good, Habakkuk still asks God to remember mercy int he midst of wrath. He doesn’t ask God to remove the wrath. But he asks that God would remember mercy in the midst of wrath.
It is like a father who has had to discipline his child because of some disobedience and afterwards he goes to her and lovingly puts his arms around her in an embrace and says, “I love you.” The sting of discipline is still there and yet there is mercy in the midst of discipline that says there is nothing that is going to separate you from my love.
We know this is the character of God because God is a holy and just God who judges and punishes all sin, and yet has demonstrated his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
The cross shows us both God’s wrath and God’s mercy towards His people. There will not be one sin that has been committed on this earth that will escape God’s judgment. Every sin will be punished. Of course, we might say, doesn’t God forgive sin? God does forgive sinners. But He has never let one sin go unpunished. Either Christ has borne the punishment of the sin of those who put their faith in Him when He went to the cross, or each person by their denial of Him will bear the punishment of their own sin. But either way, God’s wrath is revealed against all sin and ungodliness. But as God has executed judgment for sin, He has shown us mercy in sending Christ to the cross for us. In wrath, God has remembered mercy.
This is one request God will always answer for us. And that is the prayer we also pray as we share the good news of the cross with others. As we go out, we pray, God in wrath remember mercy, knowing that God’s great grace and mercy is what draws sinners to repentance and faith in Him.
And then we also know and have confidence that even as God disciplines us as His children, He has shown us mercy in the cross and there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
The prayer of faith will lead us to approach God in humility, praise Him for His goodness, seek Him to accomplish His work and not ours, and will ask Him to show mercy even in the midst of wrath because we know that He has already done so for us in Christ.


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