Other Prayers (11) – A Prophet’s Prayer

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

God came from Teman,
    the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
    and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
    rays flashed from his hand,
    where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
    pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
    he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
    and the age-old hills collapsed—
    but he marches on forever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
    the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
    Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
    when you rode your horses
    and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
    you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
    the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
    the deep roared
    and lifted its waves on high.

Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
    at the glint of your flying arrows,
    at the lightning of your flashing spear.
In wrath you strode through the earth
    and in anger you threshed the nations.
You came out to deliver your people,
    to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
    you stripped him from head to foot.
With his own spear you pierced his head
    when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
    the wretched who were in hiding.
You trampled the sea with your horses,
    churning the great waters.

I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

  • Habakkuk 3:2-19

“While working on the Student Bible my colleague and I made a selection of great prayers of the Bible, which can be read in a two-week period, one prayer per day.  Some are intimate and private while others were delivered in a very public setting.  Each gives an actual example of a person talking to God about an important matter and teaches something unique about prayer:”

  • Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?

I will be intermittently away from the keyboard for much of many of the days for about two weeks.  I had been praying about what I could write during this period, or for this period.  I try to stay a few days ahead in my writing, but with my cataract surgeries, and – confession time a little laziness – along with the heavy doctor visit schedule, I was writing my posts just in time.  (Pardon the typos, if there were any.  Really my biggest problem is changing verb tense, at will, throughout paragraphs, and within a sentence as Yancey does in the quote, but homonyms and blatant typos do exist after several reviews.)  I had just read Yancey’s book, and I thought of his list of prayers.  The chapter on Prayers in the Bible had started with the Lord’s prayer, gone to the Psalms as a whole, and included a general discussion on the prayers of Paul in his various letters.  Then Yancey lists fourteen prayers after the paragraph above.  The thought of this list struck me.  Then when I re-read the page in the book, the words ‘two-week period’ struck me.  Rather than the Holy Spirit striking me out with a third strike, I decided to write a few ideas – maybe some really short posts – for each prayer.  I will copy the Yancey quote and this paragraph for each of the fourteen, so if you read every day, you can skip this with the remaining parts.

This is an interesting prayer, again a psalm of sorts, with musical instructions.  Habakkuk paints a picture of an angry, vengeful God, but God had a purpose in that ‘anger,’ to save His people.  By saying that God brought plagues, Habakkuk is not saying for the people to be fearful of a God that schemes a variety of ways of killing you.  No, Habakkuk is thanking God and praising God for the plagues in Egypt that freed the people from slavery.

Habakkuk also makes a poetic reference to Joshua’s victory at Gibeon (Joshua 10) with the sun and moon standing still.  This is followed by praise for the victory over the people of Canaan.

This is then followed by a verse on how Habakkuk will be pleased when calamity befalls the nation that invades them (Babylon).

There is only one statement of supplication, in the first verse, one for mercy, but there is a thinly veiled supplication throughout.  Maybe God will be merciful upon His chosen people.  The entire book of Habakkuk could be considered a prayer in that the first two chapters are a conversation with God.

To understand the conversation, we must understand when Habakkuk lived.  Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah.  He lived just prior to the fall of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon.  In the first two chapters, Habakkuk wants to know if Judah can survive the invasion, but God replies that they will be defeated by Babylon.  Then Habakkuk admits that they are not righteous, but Babylon is worse.  Then God says that Babylon will also be destroyed.

Thus, Habakkuk, anticipating the invading forces being defeated, is rejoicing based on a promise from God.  Habakkuk knows that Judah will fall, but at least God will see justice done in the end.

In a way, Habakkuk is praying this prayer to tell God that he accepts the fate of Judah.  The people did wrong, and God is good on His promises.  God is also a Good Judge, and He will deal with the enemies of Judah.  But, as the Good Judge, Judah will be punished as God had foretold in the Law of Moses.

As Charles H. Spurgeon wrote “When the Lord pulls a person down, he does it in order that He may build him up again.  When He breaks a person’s heart, it is so He may make it anew.  If a person has misery of conscience on account of sin, God has had dealings of love with them.”  Punishment in Old Testament times was not simply a matter of course, but a redirection of the path of the people back to God.

God tells Habakkuk that the people will soon suffer at the hands of Babylon, but God still has the final say.  At that point, Habakkuk will dance like a deer.

What does this say about our prayer life?  We’d love to have God pull us out of the fire – that fire that we stepped into of our own free will.  God answers our prayers with a “no” at times.  When we say the phrase “Your will be done,” we are not putting a magical stamp on our prayer, saying that our prayer is God’s will, although many believe that.  These folks think, ‘I’m a good person.  I have good intentions, so God will grant my request.  My request will become God’s will.’  That phrase is basically what Habakkuk is saying in his prayer.  “I accept the fate of our nation, because we have turned from You, Oh Lord.  But let me spend about a dozen verses praising You for a few of the times You have helped in the past.”

And when we are brought low by getting a negative response from God, we have a mighty opportunity for repentance and growth in faith as we are built back up again.  We, like Habakkuk, will dance like a deer.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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