Episode 10. When It's Hard To Pray. Habakkuk 1
Sometimes when you pray, God answers just as you would like and you rejoice in Him. Other times when you pray, you do not get the answer you wanted. Sometimes ... it's HARD to pray. Nicole and Sharon are starting a three part series today on the little book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was not happy. He did not get the life he wanted. And he went to God with his complaints. Listen in as Nicole and Sharon study more about prayer and how important it is, no matter what the answers are. If you are suffering through a season where life is not what you planned or wanted, you will be encouraged, friend. Join us as we unpack this little book and learn from God's Word today.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Well. Hello, tired one. Are you feeling a bit frazzled and worn out? Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments podcast. We hope lessons from God’s word and encouragement from us will lead you to soul rest. Sweet Selah Moments podcast is brought to you by word radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Hello friends and welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments podcast. We are so glad you decided to listen in today. This week in episode 10 we will kick off a three part series on prayer and today Sharon will start us off in Habakkuk chapter one as we talk about when it’s hard to pray.
And sometimes it is hard to pray, isn’t it?
Yes, yes it is.
Before we talk about the times that are hard, when prayers seem to go unanswered or worse, answered not the way we asked. Let’s talk about some times just you and me when God did answer prayers on our behalf because I think we need to celebrate that he often does move in miraculous ways and then talk about the times when he chooses to not move in the ways we want. So let’s swap stories. I’ll start and then let’s just kind of go back and forth.
Okay. Story number one. My mother-in-law was dying. She was in the hospital on a respirator and we were grieving so deeply because she was still in her sixties. She was not old enough to die. And we loved her so much. And I remember talking to the doctors in this big family conference and he explained that her lungs had stopped going in and out like a bellows. They had stiffened and that there was no cure for that. Once your lungs stop moving, they don’t move again. And he even pulled his pockets inside out and said, I have no more tricks. So it was really, really hard. And so we went home, I started to make plans to buy black dresses for me and the girls but we had prayed and prayed and prayed that this would not be the way it ended. And my sister’s little boy, Jonathan told his mother, ‘I pray every night for Nanny’.
He called her Nanny even though she wasn’t his Nanny. Everybody loved Nanny. He said, and my brains hurt I’ve prayed so much. Bless him.
Oh my goodness.
So the day that we decided to take her off the respirator, I was all set to go shopping. We’d already talked to the funeral home and it was just really sad. Nicole, they took her off the respirator and she started to breathe.
No, you’re kidding.
She lived three more years.
Oh wow. That’s amazing.
And the doctor who was not a believer at all said, I have no word for this, but miracle. This was impossible. And she got to see Kathryn graduate from high school. She got to hold her youngest grandchild, Ray’s brother’s daughter. We got three more precious, precious years with her. And so there you go sometimes you pray until your brains hurt.
And God says, ‘Look, I can make lungs work again’. So there, that’s mine. But how about you. Do you have a story where God showed up and answered?
Oh, absolutely. I had talked about it before on a previous episode, but the healthy delivery of my third little girl was really a miracle. As I had said, I had started preterm labor much too early for her safe arrival. And the doctor just kept giving us these benchmarks to hit and we would pray right up until we hit one and then start praying again until the next one. So the first one we were praying for was just to get to 25 weeks when she’d be able to survive as a preemie. After we passed that, it was a 32 week mark so that I could deliver locally and not have to go to Dartmouth for more intensive care for her. And every passing week increased her chances of not only being able to survive, but also giving her more time to develop her lungs and brain so she’d be more prepared for this harsh world. And wouldn’t you know it, God kept her in and safe until the day after her due date.
I love that. Really?
Yes. She came a day late and at that point being in preterm labor for weeks, and weeks, I was like, thank you God for that extra…
I’m ready now, Lord.
I’m good. So we gave her the middle name, Johanna, which means, God is gracious, to remind us that God’s hand was completely on her before she was even born.
What a story for her to know, too.
What a precious, precious story. I love that. Well, I’m going to tell you one more and it’s not as deep as those first two, but it was really fun. I decided that I wanted to do a little job, Ray’s income was perfectly satisfactory for everything we needed, but not enough to really go on vacations and help the girls get ballet lessons, things like that.
Right. All the extras. Yeah.
I thought, you know, my mother taught piano. Maybe I could teach beginner piano, but there was this problem. I didn’t have a piano. So I just kind of on a whim said, Lord, I would love to be able to earn some extra money. Could you give me a piano? And maybe three days later, I can’t remember, three or four days later, we went to church on Sunday like we always did. And in the bulletin, and it never had said this before and never said it again. It said, would anyone like a free piano? We’ll deliver.
And that’s how I got my first piano.
Just the sweet answer to a prayer that I didn’t pray. I mean talk about not even a mustard seed of faith. You know, but he gave me my piano and I’ve taught piano for many, many years, and so Yay God! And thank you for my piano.
I know. I feel like I have so many of those that you almost forget about sometimes. I was embarrassed thinking like I don’t remember all those little quick prayers and then he answered, Oh wow, thanks God. Like that’s great. And I kind of go on and I forget. I need to be more diligent in marking down those little sweet quick prayers and answers that he does give.
He does. I have a little book of miracles, I call it and I write them all down because you’re right, you forget, you forget, and then you just assume you had a piano. No, you prayed for one and then God gave you one that would be delivered to your home.
That’s, that in itself is a miracle cause pianos are not easy to move.
No, no they’re not. Oh man. Well, one more story from you and then we’ll talk about when he doesn’t answer in these glorious ways that we wished.
I know. Let’s see. I think my second story is going to be probably the place where my girls ended up going to school. Particularly my oldest girl. So I was homeschooling all of them at the time and we just hit a wall with my oldest. She had some learning and some behavioral challenges that were beyond me to assist with as a teacher and her sisters. It was just becoming a huge strain on our family trying to balance all of that. So I started praying and I prayed and I prayed. And for the next several weeks I agonized over where to send her. Public school; keep homeschooling; private school? Like, what do we do? What’s the best for her? I’m pretty sure I drove all of my friends crazy asking for advice and prayers, but I was determined to find the best place for her to really, be her best and to be loved for who she was. And lo and behold, someone had mentioned this school to us that sounded too good to be true. And it kind of was in a way at first. The school was completely full and they had a waiting list of over 200 kids.
So it seems kind of bleak, but I prayed and put her on the list anyway. And the month before school started we got the call that she got in. So I couldn’t believe it. And she just loves it there. And to see her bloom and to get the help she needs and not have to fight with her over her math and have the energy to just be her mama again has been such a beautiful change in our relationship. So it’s been, that is our little miracle cause I didn’t think she’d ever get into this school. And here she is.
See, well, we want to remember these because we have a good and generous God who gives and delights. Who says, ‘Ask me and I will give you’. And as we talk about the times when we do not get what we asked for, we don’t want to forget all the times when God has, has shown up and wowed us with his graciousness and generosity to us. So, so well, when my grandson lived with us last year, when they first moved in, I had this awful bout with the flu. I was really, really sick for a couple of weeks and I’d no idea how frightened that made him and when I was all better one day I was sitting watching TV with him and he whispered to me, ‘Nina, God is real’. I said, ‘Well, yes he is Gabriel’. He said, ‘I know because I prayed you wouldn’t die. And you didn’t’.
Wow, first of all, I wasn’t on death’s door, but yay that you prayed and yay that your faith is strong. But I felt so awful about it because I was thrilled that God showed up for my little grandson and answered the prayer of his heart. Absolutely. But I also knew that there would be times when Gabriel would pray as Jesus prayed, take this cup from me and God will not take the cup from him. And so I was in this awkward place of, Oh, Gabriel. Yes. God answered your prayer and thinking, Lord, when, how? How do I help him see that even when God answers “no’, he’s answering best.
That ultimately he is answering for his kingdom’s good. So anyways, sometimes it’s hard to know how to help people see that even when we pray and it doesn’t work out as if we were the God. Our way; that there’s purpose in it.
So, so we’ve seen God say yes and we affirmed that our God does answer when we cry out to him. And he so often amazes us with his miraculous interventions. But now, we’re going to look at a teensy little book in the Bible and start a whole series on praying when it’s hard. Habakkuk was this little known prophet who was very unhappy with the state of the world and his place in it. His country was weak. Israel was very weak and the Babylonians were on the move. In fact, he lived at the time of the prophet Jeremiah and Jeremiah was letting everybody know that they were going to lose. Jeremiah was not a popular prophet.
Poor guy. Hard news to bear.
He’s like, you can ask God to save us, but he’s not going to. He’s going to let the Babylonians capture us. We are doomed. So that’s encouraging.
So Habakkuk is living in this time and I see where his grief came from. I want to, you know, live and die in my own nice little house with my cups of tea and you know, pretty trees outside.
Right. And so did Habakkuk. And yet there’s no guarantee for any of us ever that we get that kind of a cushy life here. And Habakkuk was not going to get that life. He was not. So we’re going to start looking at how he prayed and how he dealt with all the feelings that come from, wait, what? I’m not going to get the life I wanted. And so, that’s where we’re going to go today. And we’re going to read Habakkuk one today. And we talked about this earlier. Nicole has agreed to be the complaining Habakkuk. So she’s going to read the Habakkuk parts and I’m going to read what God says. So listen with us readers, listen to how bold Habakkuk is, how daring he is to tell God what’s on his heart and listen to God’s responses and how interesting they are. So okay, Sweet Selah moment here we come. Go for it. Nicole, you get to start.
Alright and complain I will. So Habakkuk one, this is the message the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision. Habakkuk’s complaint. How long oh Lord must I call for help? But you do not listen. Violence is everywhere. I cry. But you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds. Why must I watch all this misery wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am 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.
The Lord replied, look around at the nations. Look and be amazed for I am doing something in your own day. Something you wouldn’t believe, even if someone told you about it. I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands. They are notorious for their cruelty and do whatever they like. Their horses are swifter than cheetahs and fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their charioteers charge from far away, like eagles they swoop down to destroy their prey; on they come all bent on violence. Their hoards advanced like a desert wind sweeping captives ahead of them like sand. They scoff at kings and princes and scorn all their fortresses. They simply pile ramps of earth against their walls and capture them. They sweep past like the wind and are gone, but they are deeply guilty for their own strength is their God.
Habakkuk’s second complaint, Oh Lord my God, my Holy one. You who are eternal. Surely you do not plan to wipe us out. Oh Lord, our rock. You have sent these Babylonians to correct us to punish us for our many sins, but you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. Will you wink at their treachery? Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they? Are we only fish to be caught and killed? Are we only sea creatures that have no leader? Must we be strung up on their hooks and caught in their nets while they rejoice and celebrate? Then they will worship their nets and burn incense in front of them. These nets are the gods who have made us rich. They will claim, will you let them get away with this forever? Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?
Isn’t this wild? You’ve read this and you’re like, wow, wow, wow, wow. He is just on a rant and he’s…, but he’s turned to God with his rant. He’s felt free to run to God and complain about it. As bad as it is. The Babylonians to him appear worse and it looks like they’re winning and he just doesn’t get it. And when God answers, God’s like, ‘yeah, I’m letting the Babylonians do this’. That is not the answer he wanted. Right?
I don’t think so.
I think if we were comparing it to times nowadays, although it’s certainly not as bad as what Habakkuk had, it would be us saying, ‘Please remove the virus right now’.
And God’s saying, no, the virus is here. You’re going to learn lessons through it. It’s not pleasant, but it’s here. There’s some similarities between the two.
Yeah, there really are.
But what I love about Habakkuk is that he trusts God enough to come to him. He believes that God exists enough to talk to him about this. Have you ever had a like a complaining time with God where you’ve gone to him and whined like this?
So I think my ‘oldest childness’ is that a word?
It can be.
Comes out. That oldest child syndrome, it comes out in me pretty strong sometimes. Even when I pray, I think when we see, when I see injustice or evil people looking like they’re doing great and living the good life and not getting caught or having to pay for their sins, it just kills me. I’m like, do you see them God? When is the lightening bolt coming? Because they are pretty evil.
Yes, yes, yes. And yet you’ve talked to him about it and I think that’s the key. We’re not walking away. God is God. Whether we like what’s going on or not does not change the reality that God exists and God is in charge.
Oh my goodness. Well, I’ve complained too. I’ve been so frustrated when I’ve prayed and prayed and not seen the answer I was looking for. And just like Habakkuk, I’ve even kind of ridiculously pointed out to God why what was happening simply could not be good. And so why wasn’t he fixing it? So I remember praying so long and hard about a marriage that I really wanted to be saved. And then the couple divorced and it was devastating to me. It was so hard to witness and it made me feel temporarily that what was the point in praying, you know, but that was the wrong perspective. Definitely prayer is not for us to get what we want from God. I am not God. I can decide what’s right and decide what’s great from my limited perspective or I can trust that God who sees the beginning from the end, who allows human beings to make their own choices because that is part of his plan, might know better and God knows when to intervene miraculously. And God knows when to say, I’m allowing this for something greater than you can see. And so we really have to look at God’s perspective on this. And I think the best example of someone who did this is Jesus. Jesus did that. He did not want to die on that cross at the end of it, at the Garden of Gethsemane we read about the agony he was in. So Luke 22:39 through 46. Would you read that Nicole? Let’s just listen to the son of God, God himself in human form. And how he prayed about something he didn’t want to have happen.
All right. Verse 39. Then accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, pray that you will not give into temptation. He walked away about a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed, Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me yet I want your will to be done, not mine. Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently and was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. At last, he stood up again and returned to the disciples only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. Why are you sleeping? He asked them, get up and pray that you will not give into temptation.
You know, when I read this, I was very fascinated that one of the reasons Jesus gave to pray was that we not fall into temptation. We’re going to get into the other parts of this, but I just kind of want to sit with that for a minute. Jesus says to pray in hard times so we do not give in to temptation. Well, what kind of temptations do you think we would give into if we didn’t pray in hard times?
Oh, I think despair can creep in. I think we can give up hope and think that God has left us or even blame him for whatever is happening. Or that we’ll look to other sources for information and for what to do next before asking him for help.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Even when it’s hard, even when, as in Habakkuk’s case, you pretty much have been told by Jeremiah that praying that the Babylonians won’t succeed is useless.
They’re coming. Even then pray. Even then keep that connection with the living God who will show you how to get through this in a way that is way more better than anything you could do on your own. So, and of course for Jesus’ disciples, he didn’t want them to give into the temptation of fear and running away. And denial and desertion and all the temptations that they gave into because they were not praying with them. They were not getting that sustaining from the heavenly father that he was getting because he prayed. So very interesting.
That is, I never thought of that before.
Yeah. Well, the big one that you normally think about when you read this passage is Jesus asks, but with this huge caveat, if you are willing. Jesus does not demand that God makes this hard thing go away.
He asks, as the Son on earth, Jesus submitted himself to the father. Even though in heaven the Trinity is one God in three persons. I just think that’s so cool. He modeled for us, ask, but always with the idea that God knows better. Super, super cool. The third thing we get a hint of in the passage you just read, but we’re going to read another passage in Matthew 26 where you see it even more. Jesus asked more than once. And I think that’s fascinating too. So, we’ve got three things here basically for praying in hard times. You pray so you don’t give way to temptation. You pray with the knowing that what you want may not be best. And you get to pray more than once.
Yeah, you get to keep coming back to him, which is exactly what we should be doing all the time. Like we talked about last week with the tree, we need to keep in those streams of water. We need to keep there. So I’ll read Matthew 26 starting at verse 36 and hear the repetition in this. Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane and he said, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray’. He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me’. He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me yet I want your will to be done, not mine’.
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep and he said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray so that you will not give into temptation for the spirit is willing, but the body is weak’. Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away, unless I drink it, your will be done’. When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping for, they couldn’t even keep their eyes open, so he went to pray a third time saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, ‘Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest, but look, the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of the sinners. Up. Let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here’. So I love– and we’re going to see this in Habakkuk too. Habakkuk kept coming back to God, kept coming back to God and Jesus did the same thing.
He, until his spirit was settled, until he was completely, ‘I receive that you don’t want to take this from me. I receive it. I will drink it’. He kept going to his father. I love that so much, Nicole. It’s just such a, a beautiful modeling of how I need to be when I don’t get my way.
Yes, keep connected to keep asking even if you know. He knew the answer. I mean he asks and he asks and he asks and every time he asks, I love that he’s like, if it can be, but your will be done, your will be done.
There was submission in it.
There was definitely submission in it. Yes. And I think that’s what we need to have because we don’t know all the details. We, we think we do. And you know, honestly some of the prayers I prayed, I’m super glad they did not come true because I’m not nearly as smart as I think I am.
So we had this sweet pastor when we lived in Germany who used to pray, ‘Lord, it would seem good to us if you could heal Joe’, or whatever. I like that. We just, you know, basically from our human perspective, this sure looks best. Joe has kids; Joe should be healed, you know, but there’s a humility, and it would seem good to us, that said, you may have a better plan even though it’s hard, even though it’s not what Joe and his family want, you know best. And that keeping connected to God and that kind of trust is stunning and amazing. It really is. So, okay, Habakkuk asked and God basically said, Babylon is going to be victorious and vicious. So then Habakkuk asks again, why on earth would that be allowed?
Why, God? Why?
He doesn’t stop asking. So we’re going to continue to unpack Habakkuk.
For three weeks, looking at his personal complaints because there’s so much we can learn for such a time as this. And it’s so interesting to me, Nicole, that when I planned this back in January, there was no pandemic. There was no sudden shift of my world as I knew it. I had no idea and neither did you in January.
That we’d be modeling masks and comparing masks styles.
Right. But God knows. He has such a bigger picture than we do.
He really does. And so I feel like this little study on Habakkuk has come at a perfect time because we don’t always get the world we would like. We don’t. And so how do we live well in the world we’ve been given, how do we stay connected to the living God even when things are not going our way?
And so that’s what we’re going to be looking at. That’s what we’re going to be looking at. So I’m going to pray for us all and then you can close us out. And I, I love this little book I really do. And I’m so thankful that Habakkuk models speaking truth to God, you know, so it means I can go and say, Lord, I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all. And then talk to him about it. God wants relationship with us in the good times and the bad times. So let’s pray. Father, I do thank you for that. I thank you that we can come to you with anything. We can come to you with our disappointments, with our woundings, with our anger. You just want us to come. And Lord, there is no place of comfort except you. In the hardest of times, Father, you are there with us in the midst and you assure us that nothing comes without purpose. So we ask you that you would help us live well with purpose in this world we are in right now. Teach us how Lord, in Jesus name. Amen.
How about you, dear listener? Do you get discouraged in praying sometimes? We completely understand. Do come back next week for episode 11 Praying in Light of Forever. Let’s keep learning together about how to pray through the hard times. And don’t forget to follow us and tell your friends about this new podcast. We love hearing from you. So keep those comments coming over at Sweetselah.org/podcasts
Speaker 1 (29:05):
We are so glad you stopped for awhile with us. Sweet Selah Moments is a cooperative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries. More information about this podcast, including show notes, can be firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Thank you for joining us.
You can download and print the transcript here.