A Prayer, a Promise and Praise

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

At what point in your life have you prayed these words or some other version of these words?

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?

Habakkuk 1:1-7, 2:2-4, 3:17-19

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

At what point in your life have you prayed these words or some other version of these words?

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.

What was going on in your life when you prayed this prayer of lament?

Perhaps this is your prayer right now.

The prophet Habakkuk was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah which means God was speaking through him about 600 B.C. Things were not good in the Southern Kingdom of Judea. There were external threats to the country from the Babylonians, the super power of the day and there were internal threats to the fabric of the country and the people in the form of violence, trouble and a breakdown of the moral and religious fabric of the people.

How can one pray in these kinds of circumstances?

How does one pray in these kinds of circumstances?

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”  and you will not save?

If you see or feel the same kinds of things Habakkuk is speaking about; then you too might wonder if God is listening to your prayers.

You too might wonder if God has the power to save. Perhaps this prayer is on your lips.

It is a timeless prayer. It speaks to our day, our lives, and our communities and the power in this prayer is that it names reality. It tells the truth.

To name the absence of God your reality,

  • to say that God is not listening to you or to question whether or not God can save,
  • is to tell a truth that actually reveals your faith in this God that doesn’t seem to be doing anything in your life.

You wouldn’t pray this kind of prayer if you didn’t have faith in the God who can answer it.

We pray. We complain. We wait for answers. Sometimes this is what faith looks like. This is what the righteous do. Even in the face of doubt and uncertainty.

I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he  will answer concerning my complaint.

Faith meets life when there is an honest recognition of our struggles, of the violence in our communities that affects us all, and the pain around us and in our lives while we watch and we wait.

Faith meets life when our waiting is active and not passive, when our waiting is full of expectation and hope.

Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

God’s answer to Habakkuk is that there will be a vision. A vision so plain it can be written on tablets and a runner can read it. A vision for the appointed time.

But what does it look like? What is the vision?

I don’t know about you but when I’m looking for answers from God, I want details.

The more detail the better.

I want it all spelled out so clearly that I don’t even need God to help me anymore.

I want it all spelled out so clearly I don’t need any faith.

That is my pride speaking. That is my default position. I would rather trust in myself than in God. I would rather be in control instead of letting God be in control.

Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

God, as we begin this season of Advent, create a new and a right spirit within me.

Remind me again what it means to live by my faith.

Remind me again what it means to give up my will and let your will be done in my life.

When I’m waiting for my life to change, for better employment and housing stability, help me to trust in your vision and to see the people and opportunities that you will place in front of me so I can move forward in courage and hope.

This is what it means to live by faith.

When old wounds are opened up, deep wounds of hurt and pain that we thought we had taken care of and moved on from resurface, help me God to wait and to trust that you have the power to heal those wounds as you give me the courage to face them and bring them out into the light. This is what it means to live by faith.

How long have you been burdened by an illness, an addiction, or by the grief that arises when a relationship ends as a result of death or by choice?

Each day you feel the weight of that burden.

Each day you wonder if you can keep going.

Each day you pray, how long oh Lord, how long.

Living by faith gives you the power to bear the burden you feel, to get up and face the day, to stand at the watchtower and wait for God’s vision to become clear in your life.

This holds true when the circumstances you currently face are a result of your own choices or because of things that have happened to you that are totally outside of your control.

The righteous live by their faith and they know what it means to wait and to watch.

Oswald Chambers says this about faith.

Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One Who is leading. It is a life of faith, not of intellect and reason, but a life of knowing Who makes us “go.” The root of faith is the knowledge of a Person.[1]

The righteous live by knowing the One who makes us go. The righteous love the one who is doing the leading. He is the vision. He is the one who has come to give us life and hope.

How else is it possible for us to wait as we cry out to God, how long oh Lord?

How else is it possible for us to wait when we see violence and pain?

Living by faith is the vision. Living by faith in the one who leads us is the power of God that makes all things possible.

The last part of the reading today is also a prayer. It is a powerful prayer of testimony to what it means to have faith, to trust in the one who has come and will come again. To know Jesus in our bones and in the depths of our heart.

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.

Wow. Lord, give me that kind of faith.

To pray. To know the promise. To praise. To rejoice in the Lord. To exult in the God of our salvation. And to know and trust in the One for whom we wait.

Thanks be to God. Amen

 

[1] My Utmost for His Highest March 19, Oswald Chambers

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