Several years ago a book was written entitled, Your God Is Too Safe (by Mark Buchanan). Another similar title is Your God is Too Small (JB Phillips). Some may balk at those titles, but I can say without a doubt both of those titles are true for me.
I know because of how I pray. I have shared this during our Sunday evening services more than once, but when I pray, I often to protect God is by not asking too much from Him especially, when I am praying with someone regarding their health. I mean well. I may pray something like, “God, if it is your will, please heal this person and grant them Your peace. But God whatever happens grant them peace during this time.”
Now, nothing is wrong with the words, but it is the attitude behind the words. I don’t want people to be disappointed in God, so I give Him an out. Did you hear what I said a moment ago – I try to protect God! Uh, yeah!
God doesn’t need my protection – I NEED HIS!
Very briefly today, I want to show us what authentic prayer can be and challenge each of us to begin to pray with raw emotion – ALL of the time. Maybe you pray openly to God all of the time, but most of us have at least sometimes. What I mean is praying while crying out with deep emotion about why something has happened. But then, many of us dial back our emotions – both positive and negative emotions – rather than coming earnestly before God.
So, as we have a service of prayer today, we will listen to a bit of Scripture from Habakkuk, and then I will say a brief word and give us time to pray.
READ Habakkuk 1.2-4.
Habakkuk is crying out about injustice in the land. He laments about the destruction and violence that are everywhere. And worse, Habakkuk does not see God doing anything to stop it. But God does respond to Habakkuk. The problem is how God responds.
God’s promise is that it will be worse! A new kingdom – an evil kingdom – will come in and decimate Judah. Look at verse 5. People quote this verse as if God is doing something good – He is, but not as we think. What God is doing is bring a people who are dreaded, and fearsome, and proclaim their own sense of justice (v. 7.).
So, Habakkuk has been praying for some time. And now God is responding, but not at all in the way the Habakkuk thought God would.
Let’s begin our time of prayer by taking time to pray about something that you have prayed about for a long time. In fact, write this prayer request down. God may not answer today, but be open to an answer. God will answer when we come to Him honestly. Just remember, it may not be the answer we desire.
Does life seem backwards right now? Do you feel like people are getting away with all kinds of injustice, sin, etc. and God does not care? Do you feel hurt by others even though you haven’t done any wrong to them? This was Habakkuk’s issue at the end of chapter one.
READ Habakkuk 1.13.
But notice God’s response!
READ Habakkuk 2.2-4.
Waiting is hard. Living while waiting is harder. We don’t like to wait for answers. And we don’t want to wait for the outcome of the answer – particularly when the answer is not what we want to hear. However, we must understand three fundamental truths.
- What happens will happen in God’s time.
- We must wait for His timing.
- We must work while we wait.
The righteous will live by faith. To be righteous does not only mean right thinking, but right living. We are to live while exercising our faith. We are to live while waiting. Righteousness is about seeking justice and mercy where none exists. We have seen that in our world in 2020, but what Habakkuk was describing, appears to be worse (and over a longer period of time). But God said live righteously – seek justice, seek mercy, be righteous, and yet wait for Me to act.
What injustice do you see? What area of life do you think is wrong and needs correcting? Maybe it is racism, maybe it is economic disparity, maybe it is political, etc. Whatever it is, proclaim it to God – openly, honestly. If you want an answer, don’t hold back.
But know that God will answer, and what happens will be in His time. And while we wait for Him, we are to live – doing our part to make a difference, even as we wait for God to intervene.
If we are going to wait on God, we must trust Him. And a part of learning to trust God is to know Him. Listen to the some of the words Habakkuk as he prayed to God.
- God’s splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of praise (3.3)
- God was bright like light (v. 4)
- God withheld His power (v. 4)
- God’s wrath terrified creation (vv. 8-12)
- God saved His people from the wicked (v. 13)
And then, look at how Habakkuk ends his prayer – with praise!
READ Habakkuk 3.17-19.
Let’s take a few moments to praise God individually, and then we will have some more directed prayer time.
Habakkuk is a short book, but it is an honest book. We need to be more honest with God. I know I do. He already knows my thoughts. He already knows my heart. But He wants me to express it more openly than I often do. And the same is true for all of us.
Let me share a couple of common passages and see why our open, honest, and raw emotions need to guide our prayers.
READ Jeremiah 29.10-14.
First, we must recognize that this understanding is about a people, not a person. It is a group of people who are to “call upon me and come pray to me” (v. 12) and “seek God with all your heart” (v. 13). The heart is the seat of our emotions. Again, we need to come honestly before God.
READ 2 Chronicles 7.14.
Those who are called by God’s name (for us, let us say that means Christians) are to…
- humble themselves
- seek His face
- turn from wickedness
…then God will hear, forgive, and heal.
I know we want to pray for our country, for our leaders, for our families, etc. But it begins with us.
- You need to be humble before God. I need to be humble before God.
- You need to seek His face. I need to seek His face.
- You need to turn from your wickedness. I need to turn from my wickedness.
Until that happens, we cannot expect God to hear. We cannot expect God to forgive. We cannot expect God to heal our land, our country, our world.
So, let’s now begin a more directed time of prayer. Last week, I mentioned the need to move from lamenting to repenting. Take these next few moments to forgo complaining about others and the situations that come to mind and take time to seek God and ask forgiveness for specific sins in your life. If you can’t think of any, remember a part of God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7.14 is that we humble ourselves, so ask God to reveal any sins to you.
Ask God to reveal Himself anew to our church that we might shine His light in this town, area, and world.
Ask God what you are to do to be a part of shining that light in partnership with others from this body of believers. Make yourself available to Him to live righteously even as you wait for Him to work in, and through, you.
Ask for God to raise up His Church in Fairfax, that the four churches in town, the people that attend them, and the people from Fairfax that attend elsewhere, will share His love to those in Fairfax and beyond.
Ask God to raise up new leaders to lead His Church, including this church, into the 21st Century, with the wisdom to respond to the new challenges in our day.
Ask God to allow churches all over this country and world to get involved in doing what only God can do – bringing justice, hope, peace, and love to people and communities everywhere, and especially those who are in need and are neglected.
Pray for our local government that they seek God to make wise decisions for Fairfax and Atchison County.
Pray for the leaders of our state to be God-honoring and provide Godly leadership for the people of Missouri.
Pray for our president, our vice-president, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all others who assist the members of each of those branches so that each person will desire to lead our country with more than an affirmation of God, but with a heart for God and for the people so that we can be united as President Biden called us to be, and more, importantly, as God wants us – particularly as believers – wants us to be.
Praise God for His power, His goodness, for His grace, and for His love.
Praise God that He is willing to listen to people like us as we pray, and use people like us to share His love with others.
Finally, thank God for His sending of Jesus to provide not only salvation, but true life for those who believe.