Reflections on Habakkuk (3): Learning from the Prophet’s Prayer

God’s answers to Habakkuk’s questions in chapters 1-2 lead to Habakkuk’s song of worship in chapter 3. I love the prayer that Habakkuk begins with in verse 2.

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.

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.

Habakkuk’s prayer is motivated by his knowledge of God’s past fame (“I have heard the report of you”) and his reverence for God’s past works (“I stand in awe of your deeds”) – but all the while he has his eye on the present situation. He looks backward in reverence; he leans forward in faith. Habakkuk looks back on what God has done in history and says, “Lord, do it again. These things have I have merely heard about with my ears: let me see them with my eyes. These things I have only read about in books: let me experience them in my own life. Your great acts of yesterday – do them again today.

What would it look like for us to pray like Habakkuk prays in 3:2? How can this prayer be a model for our prayers today? Two thoughts.

1) First, our prayers will be enriched by the reading of history. Learning what God has done in the past can be a powerful encouragement and helpful paradigm to teach us how to pray. For example, learning about the incredible things God did during the Great Awakenings in this country can give us hope in praying for revival in our nation today. Secularization and moral decline are not inevitable; God can intervene. How do we know this? Because he did once already.

2) Second, Habakkuk’s prayer should lead us to pray boldly. So often we read about the things God did in the pages of the Bible, or even in church history, and it seems like another world. We think, “if only we were alive back then, we could have seen God really work.” We forget that “He is not the God of the dead but the living.” The whole point of a passage like James 5:17-18 is that the people through whom God worked greatly in the past – like Elijah – were just ordinary people like us. What made their lives great was God. As God answered their prayers and worked in their situations, so he will answer our prayers and work in our situations. As we look back on the great things God has done in the past, we are invited to pray for God to do such great things again.

Lord, I have heard about when you poured out your Spirit on the church and gave true spiritual power. Do it again today. Lord, I have heard about when you brought about mass repentance and turned an entire nation around. Do it again in our nation today. Lord, I have heard about when you gave your church bold witness and caused the gospel to penetrate vast new areas. Do it again today. Lord, I have read about when you comforted David with an overwhelming sense of your presence. Do it again to me right now. Lord, I have heard about when you humbled and destroyed evil oppressors and intervened to save the poor. Do it again today.

May our prayers for the future be as grand as God’s deeds in the past.

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