Blogging with Habakkuk (18) – Is God There?

(Part 18 in a series of posts on Habakkuk.)

Habakkuk 3:1-2a

1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On [shigionoth].
2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. (NIV)

How can you be assured of God’s presence? The first thing you need to do is approach God in an attitude of worship. And that’s exactly what Habakkuk does here in chapter 3. Verse 1 provides a title for the whole chapter: “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.”

Chapter three is a prayer from Habakkuk to God. Now when I talk to God in prayer, I usually just talk to him. I don’t craft my words or plan out any long speeches any more than I do when I am talking with a friend or a neighbor. But Habakkuk chapter three is a little different. We are not sure exactly what that word shigionoth means at the end of verse 1, but it seems to be some kind of musical term. The chapter closes with instructions for the director of music and speaks about using stringed instruments. And so Habakkuk 3 is not only a prayer; it is a psalm or a worship song. It is a musical prayer. And musical prayers are a little different from just our regular prayers when we talk to God on a day to day basis.

First of all, a musical prayer is a written prayer. It is not just spoken. The author of a written prayer thinks about what he wants to say and then writes it out. It takes some time to do that. You may go through several drafts, crossing things out, trying to get your words just right. Most of us aren’t used to writing out our prayers, but it is another valid way that we can communicate with God, sort of like writing God a letter. As human beings we write each other letters, not only when we are far away, but sometimes because we feel we can communicate what we want to say better through writing than just a conversation. Writing out prayers can be a valuable way to communicate with God also.

But a musical prayer is not only a written prayer. It is also a poem. Poetry uses condensed and heightened language. It requires composition. Words are carefully chosen not only for their content, but also for their imagery and rhythm and rhyme. Not all of us are gifted with poetic language, but if you are gifted in this way, you may want to consider writing out some prayers to God in poetic form.

And thirdly, a musical prayer is not only a written prayer and a poem. It is also a song. It is a song of worship. Music adds another element to prayer because it engages our emotions in a different way. Also, songs are meant to be sung over and over again. Worship songs are not just one-time prayers, but prayers that can be presented to the Lord repeatedly. And another neat thing about worship songs – songs can be shared, so that a wide range of people can use the words and music of the song together to approach God in worship.

Notice how Habakkuk begins his prayer in verse 2: “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.” (Habakkuk 3:2a) He begins with worship. Too often we just rush right into prayer with all our requests. That was part of Habakkuk’s problem earlier. His earlier prayers were all complaints to God. Now we have already seen that there is nothing wrong with bringing your questions and complaints to God. God wants you to talk honestly with him. But if you want to know God’s presence, you must begin with worship.

How do you worship God?

1) Adore God for who He is.

First of all, adore God for who he is. Habakkuk says in verse 2, “Lord, I have heard of your fame.” (Habakkuk 3:2) God is “the famous One.” To quote from a recent worship song by Chris Tomlin:

You are the Lord, the famous one, famous one,
Great is your name in all the earth
The heavens declare you’re glorious, glorious
Great is your fame beyond the earth.

God is awesome. He is magnificent. He is perfect. He is beautiful. He is all-powerful, all-loving, all-righteous, all-wise. He is “The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, [to whom] be honor and glory for ever and ever.” (1 Timothy 1:17) Focus your heart and your mind on God and adore him. Worship him in the beauty of his holiness. Speak to him; lift up your hands to him; fall down before him; worship Almighty God for who he is.

2) Praise God for what he has done.

And then secondly, praise God for what he has done. Habakkuk goes on in verse 2: “I stand in awe of all your deeds.” (Habakkuk 3:2) Praise God for what he has done not only in your own life, but in all of life. Praise him for his wonderful works in creation. Praise him for his awesome deeds in history. Praise him for calling out a people for his very own. Praise him for sending his Son into the world to accomplish our salvation. Praise God for who he is, and praise him for what he has done.

Chris Tomlin’s song “The Famous One” continues with this verse praising God for his deeds:

And for all you’ve done and yet to do
With every breath I’m praising you
Desire of nations and every heart
You alone are God, You alone are God.

If you want to know God’s presence, begin with worship. Worship is one of the key stops that you make again and again on the journey from doubt to faith.

(Looking ahead: Next time we will look at Habakkuk 3:3-15)

Here are the links to the whole Blogging with Habakkuk series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.

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  1. Blogging with Habakkuk (5) - Does God Care? at Ray Fowler .org

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