Study 8 HABAKKUK: A PRAYER FOR REVIVAL
STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS
by Francis Dixon
(Key-verses: Habakkuk 3:1-2)
The strange word “shigionoth” in Habakkuk 3:1 indicates that this beautiful heart-felt prayer for revival, offered by the prophet around 600 BC, was originally set to music. Habakkuk prayed because revival was desperately needed. God’s people had become forgetful, formal and careless in their devotion and obedience to God. They had almost lost their testimony, God’s holy name was not honoured, and His kingdom was not being extended.
How relevant this study is for our own times! – because our greatest need today is for spiritual revival. Our greatest need is not for more evangelistic meetings (although we thank God for these), for more money or for better methods. The greatest need is for spiritual revival, for a fresh infusion of divine life into the Church, for an awakening in the lives of God’s people and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was for this that Habakkuk prayed. Let us examine his prayer:-
1. The word ‘O’ expresses a deeply-felt longing for revival
The prophet prayed “I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord…” – what intensity of feeling! Are we burdened like this? What is our reaction to the following facts:-
- 1. The average Christian is living on a very low level of Christian experience, often defeated and powerless and in bondage to self.
- 2. The testimony of the Christian Church in the world is frequently ineffective and very different from the testimony of the early Christians.
- 3. Many Christians and churches are completely occupied with petty things such as jealousies, squabbles, barriers between Christian and Christian, and often there’s a lack of love amongst God’s people.
- 4. Many churches have no prayer meetings or poorly-attended prayer meetings.
- 5. Many preachers and teachers have departed from the Word of God and from pure Gospel preaching.
- 6. There are few conversions in our churches.
- 7. Much worldliness has taken over the lives of many believers in our churches.
2. The word “Lord” (repeated) declares that God is the author of revival
Habakkuk’s prayer was rightly directed to the Lord because revival comes from Heaven. It cannot be worked up; it needs to be prayed down. It is not man’s doing, but God’s, though God in His mercy sends revival through His people. The fact that we so often place emphasis on outward things, on organization and methods, on advertising and publicity etc. shows that we do not see this amazing truth. These things do not produce revival – God alone can!
3. The words “I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe…” show how revival begins
It is when a believer gets alone in God’s presence, hears His voice and trembles at His word (Isaiah 66:2). Habakkuk had in fact done this (2:1-3), and while he was alone in God’s presence he experienced what the Psalmist mentions in Psalm 85:6-8. So often we rush into God’s presence and do all the talking, but it is when a man abases himself before Almighty God, confesses the sins of his people and his own sins, that revival can begin in that one man. One person can open the door through which the Risen Lord will enter in reviving and quickening power into His Church (Revelation 3:20)!
4. The words “Revive thy work…” (KJV) unveil the true nature of revival
Habakkuk did not pray, ‘Lord, deal with the heathen and save them…’, but ‘Revive your work…put your people right…’ Many Christians confuse revival with the work of evangelism. Revival includes evangelism, but evangelism does not necessarily include revival. Evangelism includes organization, publicity, team work, perhaps media appearances, and much human effort – all of which is good; but when revival comes it is quite apart from these human endeavours. It always begins in the Church and in the hearts and lives of God’s own people.
5. The words “In the midst of the years…” (KJV) speak to us of the time of revival
Habakkuk repeats these words in his prayer, so what is their significance? No doubt the prophet meant, ‘O Lord, revive your work now, when the need is so desperate…’; and surely for us it means that any time is God’s time for revival, any time when revival is needed and when God’s people will pray. Here we are not in any way contradicting what has already been said about God being the author of revival; God is sovereign, but has also declared in His Word that He is willing to hear and answer the prayers of His people. Therefore, “in the midst of the years”, at this very time, God will revive if…look up 2 Chronicles 7:14.
6. The words “make known…” reveal the effects of revival
When revival comes, what does God “make known”? (1) He makes known His majesty, His glory and His holiness (Isaiah 6:1-8). (2) He makes known our sin, weakness, emptiness and failure (Lamentations 3:40-42; Matthew 5:23-24; Luke 19:8). (3) He makes known the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:11-12). When revival comes God reveals Himself, for revival is a revelation of the Lord Himself – and the result is a tremendous consciousness of God’s presence.
7. The words “in wrath remember mercy…” suggest the true motive for praying for revival
God had been punishing the Chaldeans and chastening His own people, but Habakkuk prayed He would reveal His mercy to show the other side of His nature – He hates and punishes sin but loves the sinner. Is that our prayer too?