Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you ever find, as I do, that your prayer time is kind of just grocery-listing God?

Leslie Basham: This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: “Lord, I need this. I need that. Don’t forget to do this. Please do that.” We’ve spouted off a bunch of stuff, but we haven’t really heard from God. We don’t even know what it was God wanted us to pray about. We just were getting things off our chest.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 22. So if prayer is more than just a grocery list, what is prayer? The prophet Habakkuk learned to go deeper than a grocery list kind of prayer, and today we’ll learn from his example. Nancy’s been helping us get to know this prophet in the series Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith.

Nancy: Well, we’re working our way ever so slowly through the book of Habakkuk. Actually, you think it seems slow, but I have been working my way for the last three months or more through the book of Habakkuk. I keep seeing new and fresh and exciting things. I feel like we’re just actually hitting on the surface of things.

I want to encourage you to be reading the book along with us, and I hope that you’re following along with us digging in for yourself. I know some of you listen to Revive Our Hearts while you’re driving your car. That would not be a good time to be taking notes, but you can open your Bible and you can study for yourself and let the Lord speak to you through this passage.

We come today, finally, to chapter 3 of three chapters in the book of Habakkuk. We’re kind of reading Habakkuk’s journal as he walks through this pilgrimage. You could attach a single word to each chapter to give you an idea of how that journey is taking place.

Chapter 1 we could say Habakkuk is wrestling. In fact, his name means “one who wrestles.” He’s wrestling with God. He’s wrestling with tough issues, tough questions, things he sees going on around him that don’t make sense. So he asks God these questions. He’s wrestling.

Chapter 2 we see Habakkuk watching. He says, “I go up to my watchtower and I focus on who God is. I wait in the presence of the Lord, and I pray and I let Him speak to me.” He’s watching for God. We saw in chapter 2 that Habakkuk got a fresh vision and view of God that proved to be absolutely life-changing.

So chapter 1 he’s wrestling; chapter 2 he’s watching, and by the time we get to the end of chapter 3, he will be worshiping. Wrestling, watching, and worshiping.

Someone else has described these three chapters this way. They have said chapter 1 is a dialogue between God and Habakkuk. Chapter 2 is a dirge. We have the woes, the funeral dirge pronounced on Babylon. She will reap what she has sown. So we have this very heavy, sad, melancholic dirge in five stanzas as we studied recently in chapter 2.

Chapter 1, dialogue. Chapter 2, dirge. But when we come to chapter 3, it’s doxology. It’s doxology. It’s turned to praise and worship.

So when we left chapter 2, you remember the last verse of chapter 2 said, “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (verse 20). God had shown Habakkuk that He was infinitely bigger and infinitely greater than any world power, including the powerful Babylonians.

As wicked and powerful and ruthless as they were, God said, “I am over them. I am in control. I am in charge.” Keep in mind, as we read in verse 14 of chapter 2, the day will come when "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

So things look like they are out of control down here. We have floods and earthquakes and hurricanes and wars and tumult and problems and pain and sickness and death and conflicts and divorce and all these issues that can turn your world topsy-turvy. But God says, “I’m bigger than all of that. I’m over all of that. So just relax. Be still. Be quiet and know that I am God, and I am on my throne.”

At the end of chapter 2, I sense that there’s a great big pause before we come to chapter 3. The Lord is in His holy temple, but all the earth keeps silence before Him. You just sense there’s this big pause as Habakkuk does just that. He waits. He’s silent. He’s in awe of the magnificent, majestic, high, holy, and lifted up Lord of the universe.

Then when we come to chapter 3, it’s like he breaths again. Chapter 3, verse 1 says, “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.” A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. I don’t think this is a prayer that he just ran into the presence of God and spouted out.

I don’t think he just raced in and said, “Lord, I need these things today. I need this today.” I think this is a prayer that was prayed after he had waited and lingered in the presence of God to let God show him how he should pray.

Do you ever find, as I do, that your prayer time is kind of just grocery-listing God as you’re on the run? “Lord, I need this. I need that. Don’t forget to do this. Please do that.” We’ve spouted off a bunch of stuff, but we haven’t really heard from God. We don’t even know what it was God wanted us to pray about. We just were getting things off our chest.

That’s not this kind of prayer. That’s not the kind of prayer Habakkuk prays here. This is a prayer that comes from having been in the presence of God. It gives us instruction and an example about how we should pray. A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. Habakkuk responds to the vision and the burden that God has given him.

Remember chapter 1, verse 1, says, “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw,” the vision, the burden that God put upon him? Habakkuk has seen some pretty heavy, weighty things. God has given him a message of judgment and of salvation.

These are weighty things and now Habakkuk responds to what he has seen by praying. He responds to the vision and the burden God has given him, not by running off and doing something, but by praying. He turns the vision and the burden upward back to God in prayer.

That’s what we need before we pray. In order to know how to pray, we need to get God’s perspective. “God, how do you see things?” So when we pray, we’re linking arms with God and His kingdom purposes. That’s what it is to pray according to the will of God.

We find out what does God think? What is God doing? What is God saying in this day and in this era? What is God like? How does He view all this mess going on around me in my home, in my workplace, in my job, in our ministry? What is God’s perspective?

Then having been still enough, quiet enough, long enough to get God’s perspective, having gone to the watchtower, to the watchpost to see what God will say, that determines our response. In chapter 3 is Habakkuk’s response to everything he has seen and heard to this point. It’s his response to what God has revealed of Himself and His ways.

As we read Habakkuk’s prayer, we see that Habakkuk is a changed man. He’s a different man than the man we met in chapter 1. Now there are no more questions, no more accusations, no more anger, no more doubt. Now there’s just submission and reverence and praise. All those things are an expression of faith because Habakkuk has learned that the righteous shall live even in an ungodly world, how? By his faith.

  • Faith leads us to submit to God.
  • Faith leads us to have reverence for God.
  • Faith leads us to trust God.
  • Faith leads us to praise God.

So Habakkuk still doesn’t have the answers to all his questions, but he has encountered the God who is enough. The change has been a process in his life, and I think it’s been a painful process, a grueling process. His perspective and his heart have been changed because he has seen the Lord.

Now verse 1 tells us this is a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet according to Shigionoth. You say, “What in the world? What language is that?” Shigionoth. Nobody knows what it means. But apparently it’s a musical notation. You see the word used in a different form one time in the Psalms.

There’s evidence in this chapter that this whole prayer is intended really to be a psalm, to be sung as an act of worship. We see that by this notation, Shigionoth, at the beginning in verse 1. But then you also in three verses will see the word Selah. Again, we’ll see that that’s a musical notation. You see it in verse 3 and in verse 9 and again in verse 13.

Then in the very last verse of this chapter, verse 19, Habakkuk closes his prayer by saying, “To the choirmaster with my musical instruments.” We’ll get to that phrase at the end of this series, but it’s another evidence that this was intended to be a song to be sung, to be sung with the accompaniment of stringed instruments. It’s possible that this song, Habakkuk’s prayer, actually became a part of the temple worship.

So the book of Habakkuk concludes in praise and in worship even though nothing has changed in Habakkuk’s circumstances. Remember that. The Jews are still backslidden. The Babylonians are still coming to conquer the earth and to chastise the Jews. Nothing has changed except Habakkuk. His perspective has changed. He now trusts God’s wisdom and God’s purposes, so he can praise and he can worship; whereas, at the beginning he was one fretful, frustrated man.

So we see this prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. Then in verse 2 he begins his prayer. He says, “LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear” (NASB).

Now for this verse, for those of you who’ve been following along, I usually teach out of the English Standard Version. But this verse I want to read out of the New American Standard Bible because I think that gives a little more clearly what I understand to be the meaning of this verse. So in the New American Standard it reads, “LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear.”

Some of your translations will say, “Lord, I have heard Your speech. I have heard what You have had to say. I have heard the report about you and I fear.”

What kind of fear is that? I don’t think it’s the kind of fear that dreads what’s going to happen as much as a reverential awe in the light of the awesome holiness of God. It’s the kind of fear we read about in Hebrews chapter 12, verses 28-29, where the Scripture says that we should “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (NKJV).

When you see God as majestic and holy and a consuming fire who judges wickedness, then you stand before God in reverence and godly fear. You don’t take His name in vain. You don’t take Him lightly. You don’t joke about spiritual things. You don’t just dash off from the presence of God.

There’s a reverence and an awesome holy fear in His presence, which by the way, I think is so sadly lacking in modern-day evangelicalism. You don’t see it in many Christians’ lives. You don’t see it in many churches. You don’t see it in many church services.

You see this familiarity with God. He’s my buddy. He’s my friend. He’s my pal. He’s close. There is a sense in Scripture where we read about the intimacy and the nearness of God, but you can never experience intimacy and the nearness of God at the expense of His absolute otherness.

God is apart from us. He is set apart. He is infinitely above and beyond and apart and outside of us. You can never draw close to Him until you have come to Him first in holy reverence and fear.

In this prayer Habakkuk has turned his focus now Godward. Before he had been focused on Israel and the Chaldeans, the Babylonians. He was disturbed. But now his focus is on God.

I think isn’t true that most of our problems come when we get too focused on ourselves, our circumstances, our problems? Habakkuk has come to the place where God’s holiness and God’s glory are all that really matter to him.

He’s no longer asking, “Why does God allow this to go on? What did we do to deserve this?” He now realizes that God is just. God is sovereign. God is wise. God is holy. Sinful man has no right to complain at whatever God does, only to submit, to be in reverence and awe.

God has revealed Himself. God has revealed His ways, His promises to Habakkuk, and Habakkuk has been humbled in the presence of God. So he’s no longer protesting God’s decisions, no longer striving with God. He just stands in awe of God. He bows in wonder, in adoration. His complaint is stopped. No more accusations. Just reverence and respect and awe.

That’s the place God wants us to come to, where we know Him and trust Him. The righteous shall live by his faith. We’ve seen a vision of Him. We’ve seen what He’s like. We’ve seen Him revealed through His Word in the Scripture, and we stand before Him and even though we don’t understand His ways, we worship.

Lord, I’ve heard the report of You. I’ve heard Your speech. I’ve heard what You had to say. I’ve seen what You’ve revealed of Yourself, and I stand in awe, fear, worship.

Then he goes on to pray, “O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (verse 2, NASB).

I realized as I was preparing for this session today that I have not begun to plumb the depths of that prayer for revival, but let me just give you a little bit of the surface of it and you take it to the Lord. Make it your prayer and ask Him to show you more of what it means and how we should pray for revival in light of this verse.

“O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk moves now to make petitions to God.

Notice what he doesn’t ask in this prayer.

  • He doesn’t ask God to spare His people from chastening.
  • He doesn’t ask God for ease or for comfort.
  • He doesn’t ask God to protect them from the Babylonians.
  • He doesn’t ask God to change His plan.

He knows that the Jewish people deserve whatever God sends. He knows that God will only do what is righteous and just. All that matters to him now is the glory of God being on display. The whole earth seeing the knowledge of the glory of the Lord and having that knowledge cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. That’s his motive. That’s what he cares about.

He wants to see God’s work flourish in the earth. He’s concerned no longer about his own agenda or his own kingdom or the Jewish kingdom or the Babylonian kingdom for that matter. He’s concerned about God’s kingdom agenda. What’s on God’s heart? What’s on God’s mind? What will make God look great and glorious?

So he prays that God will do something in the midst of the years. “LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known.” If you’re following along in the New International Version it says, “in our day.” In our day do this.

I think what he’s saying is, “God, in our time, in the midst of right where we live, here and now, in the midst of our circumstances, troubled as they may be, in the midst of the trials that are here and the trials that are yet to come, Lord, do this. Revive Your work and make it known. And in wrath remember mercy. Do this now. Do it in our time. Do it in our day. Do it in the midst of the years.”

Essentially, Habakkuk makes in this prayer two requests. He wants to see first a display of God’s power and God’s might. “LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known.”

“We want to see Your power. We want to see Your glory. We want to see a display of what only You can do. Lord, revive Your work. Your work. Not the works of our hands, but Your work. Do what only You can do.”

That word revive has to do with preserving. Keep it alive. Quicken it. Purify it. Lord, we are the work of Your hands. Purify us. Restore us. Restore us to a place of faith and surrender and obedience. Make us the people You intended for us to be. “Lord, revive Your church” is the prayer.

Lord, revive us. Lord, revive me. Lord, revive our hearts. Revive Your work so the world can see a display of Your glory, so the world can see Your power and Your might. So Your glory will be seen through us. Fulfill Your redemptive purposes. Lord, You alone can do this.

It’s a desperate cry. It’s a pleading cry. It’s a helpless cry, but it’s a trusting cry. Lord, You can do this. You have the power. You’re in Your holy temple. You’re over the Babylonians. You’re the creator. We don’t worship idols. We worship You. Lord, You can do it.

Some of you have been praying for revival for years. Don’t stop, even when it looks like it’s getting worse. Some of you have been praying for revival in your church for years, and you’ve been faithful to cry out to the Lord. Then it looks like the church is getting more worldly, fewer people praying, fewer people caring about holiness.

Don’t give up. Persevere and pray. The righteous shall live by his faith. Keep praying by faith. Keep clinging to the Lord. Keep crying out to Him for His sake, for His glory, for His name, for His reputation.

"Lord, revive Your work in our day. Lord, in our day, make Your work known. Let our churches, let our families, let my mate, let my children, let my friends, let me, let us see that You are God. Let us see You at work."

We’re not satisfied with religion, with Christianity that is just the sum total of all our effort and all our energy and all our ingenuity and all our marketing programs and all we can do.

"Lord, human effort isn’t cutting it. Oh, it can give us mega-churches. It can give us multi-million dollar ministries. It can get us on radio and TV and publish books. Lord, we want to see Your power. We want to see what only You can do. We don’t want to settle for what man can do. Lord, revive Your work."

Then that last phrase: “In wrath remember mercy.” He’s not questioning that God’s wrath is righteous. He’s not questioning that God’s judgment on wickedness is deserved. He’s not questioning that God should be chastening His people for their sin. He’s saying, “Lord, as You demonstrate your wrath, remember mercy.”

In chapter 1 that wasn’t quite his tune. In chapter 1 Habakkuk was pleading for justice. Now he’s realized if he got what he wanted then, we’d all be wiped out. So he says, “Lord, we deserve Your wrath. We deserve Your judgment, but Lord, would You have mercy on us?”

Again we see that Habakkuk was looking forward to Christ and His cross. Now as we look back to Calvary we know why God can have mercy on us. Because Jesus Christ took on Himself all the wrath of a holy God against all the sin of the world.

So we can say, “God, for Jesus’ sake and because of what Jesus has done on Calvary, in Your wrath against this world, would You remember mercy. We come to the cross. We cling to Christ. We believe in Him and by faith in Him we say, “O God, please have mercy on us for our sins,” and He will.

So as we pray for revival, as we pray for God to work in our day, what are we praying for? What are we concerned about? What really matters to us? As we pray, we want to be concerned about the work of God, the glory of God, the name of God, the reputation of God in His church. And the glory and the name and the work and the reputation of God in the world.

Is that what you’re praying for? Join me as we pray. O Lord, we’ve heard the report of You, and we tremble with reverential awe. O Lord, we pray that in the midst of the years in our day, in this time, in our world, in our churches, in our homes, in our lives that You would revive Your work, that You would make it known.

Display Your glory and Your power and then display Your pardon and Your mercy. In wrath, remember mercy. For Jesus’ sake we pray it and for Your glory and the sake Your great kingdom, amen.

Leslie: The prophet Habakkuk learned to pray for God’s will instead of His own. You need to learn to do the same thing. I need to learn to do the same thing. Learning to pray for God’s will as life rages all around is one reason to study the book of Habakkuk. Nancy’s been encouraging us to study the book while she teaches through the series.

Let me ask you, when is the last time you truly studied a book of the Bible? I’m not talking about a few verses crammed in between breakfast and rush hour. I mean really getting to know what a book of the Bible says and finding out how it affects your life.

Well, during Nancy’s series called Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith, it’s a perfect time to study the book of Habakkuk. We want to send you a booklet to help you dig into this important book. When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you this Bible study called Worry, Woes, and Worship.

Every day for 30 days it will take you through an important idea from Habakkuk. It won’t take too long but will give you something to think about the rest of the day. You’ll learn to live the message of Habakkuk and not just read about it.

Ask for the booklet when you call with your donation of any amount. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Have you ever heard anyone say a loving God wouldn’t send anyone to hell? Find out what the book of Habakkuk has to say about that idea when Nancy picks up the teaching tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion