My friend Carolyn called me up yesterday and we were discussing the state of our world: floods, fires, threats of war, and social and political upheaval, when she said listen to this:
“Violence is everywhere…Must [we] forever see these evil deeds? Why must [we] watch all this misery? Wherever [we] look, [we] see destruction and violence. [We are] surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.”
I purposely omitted the opening sentence of this passage, so that you would see how accurately it describes our world today. The opening sentence reads, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!” and it is from the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk written about 600 B.C. This Old Testament prophet instinctively turned his complaints into a prayer and initially a demanding one at that.
Fast forward about 2,435 years and prayer specialist Soren Kierkegaard tells us that, “The best help in all action is to pray-that is true genius; then one never goes wrong.” Perhaps Kierkegaard modeled his belief about prayer after the experience of Habakkuk. At first, Habakkuk was critical and impatient, but as his dialogue with the Lord unfolded, Habakkuk was changed. In his second complaint, Habbakuk has a softer tone, basically saying, “Lord, I don’t understand you, but I will wait patiently to hear what you have to say to me.” Finally, the Book ends with this beautiful verse from a transformed heart:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19
We all can think of times when we were impatient and our prayer was more of a demand than a request. And, how many times have we explained to the Lord exactly how He should answer our prayer instead of patiently trusting in His response? More than we want to admit to for sure! So maybe it’s time to change course. We have a God who hears us. We have a God who answers us. And, we have a God who is never wrong. Don’t miss His reply because it doesn’t match up with what you prayed for. “It is not enough to direct your prayer unto God; look up, and look out, until the blessing alights on your head.” (Meyer) It is sure to be a far greater reply than you asked for or could have imagined.
So today as we pray for everything going on in our world, and perhaps in particular about hurricane Irma who is on the doorstep of those of us who live in Florida, we can remember the lessons of Habakkuk and the words of Kierkegaard:
“The best help in all action is to pray-that is true genius; then one never goes wrong.”
I took the above photo of a “sure-footed deer” on the Boynton Canyon Pass in Sedona, Arizona.