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A Prayer for Stressful Times

Sermon Outline

Scripture: Habakkuk 3:1-2

I. We should pray that God preserves life.

A. Habakkuk begins his prayer in verse 2 by saying: “O LORD, I have heard the report of you.”  Habakkuk has heard the revelation that God has given to him about what is going to happen to Israel. He knows the destruction that is coming for his country. As Habakkuk thought about what God was going to do to Israel, he was afraid (vs. 2). Terror was approaching. But Habakkuk taught the Israelites how to pray in the midst of their fears. And the Jews would sing this song Habakkuk taught them while they waited for the Babylonian invasion.

B. The most famous verse in the book of Habakkuk is Habakkuk 2:4: “the righteous shall live by his faith.” No matter what stress you under, no matter what kind of judgments the hand of God brings upon your nation, God’s people are to live by faith in spite of their fears. We read in the middle of verse 2: in the midst of the years revive it. Or some translations put it, in the midst of the years make him live. Make who live? The person who is living by faith. Israel needed to pray that God would keep some of the nation of Israel alive in the midst of the coming disaster.

II. We should pray that God provides understanding.

A. The second prayer Habakkuk teaches Israel to pray in verse 2 is in the midst of the years make it known. In the midst of the years between God’s judgment of Israel through Babylon and God’s eventual judgment of Babylon, the people of Israel were to pray for understanding of God’s plan. After all, God’s plans are mysterious. The people would need to pray for an understanding of God’s plan if they were going to live by faith in these disastrous days. Understanding what God is doing is necessary for survival in a stressful time.

B. God answered this prayer of Habakkuk in Habakkuk 3. In the year 606 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon first conquered Jerusalem. But in that year God answered the first part of Habakkuk’s prayer by preserving the life of four young Jewish men: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Notice how these four Jews were described in Daniel 1:4: “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.” They were quick to understand. Through these four young men, God gave prophecy to the Jews about what God was doing in their day in Babylon. God gave understanding to Israel about their days through these four young men.

III. We should pray that God remembers mercy.

A. Habakkuk taught the people of Israel to pray in Hab. 3:2: in wrath remember mercy. In the scary days after Babylon’s invasion, Habakkuk and the rest of Israel would be afraid. The word wrath in verse 2 indicates that this was a time of agitation and disturbance. It was a time when Israel was going to be shaken to its very foundation. Habakkuk told them to pray for God to pour out His mercy on His people. One place where God remembered to be merciful in the midst of pouring out His wrath was at the cross. God poured His justice and wrath on Jesus at the cross while we received God’s mercy because Christ died in our place.

Application:
Remember to pray in stressful times according to the example of Habakkuk.

Sources:
The prophecy of Habakkuk
Commentaries on Habakkuk by O. Palmer Robertson and Walter Chantry

Sermon Discussion Questions

1) How did Habakkuk feel about what God was going to do to Israel? Just because we have faith in God, does that mean there will not be times when we are also afraid?

2) How should we pray when we are under stress? Does God always let us know why He is doing certain things? But can God help us to know what we should learn in our situation?

3) How can God be just and merciful at the same time? Do you remember to pray for God to be merciful when you sin?

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