Michael Youssef - Life-Changing Prayers - Part 4
Most of us would testify to the fact that at some point in our lives have experienced delay to answers, prayer, or experience no answers to prayer. You may be going through that now. Some have received answers they did not ask for. Depending on the level of faith of where the individual is in their walk, they react to that lack of answers or delay in answers or getting the wrong answers, well, at least, in their view, it'd be the wrong answers. Some, and I've seen this through the years, become angry with God. Others develop, what I call, cold love toward God, kind of give God the silent treatment. Still, others give up praying altogether, and, yet there are those who use this as an opportunity to grow more in intimacy with God, to grow in the knowledge of God.
They begin to develop greater faith than they've ever before, and they begin to use this opportunity to ask the Lord, "Lord, what do you want me to learn from this"? "Lord teach me how to pray consistently with your will". "Lord, help me to trust you more than ever before". "Lord, help me to trust the fact that you always work for my good and for your glory". "Lord, teach me". "Lord, I know that you always have my best interests at heart and mind". "Lord, I know that you are protecting me from what's around the corner that I can't see". "Lord, I know that you cause all things to work together for good for those who love you". When you ask this of the Lord, genuinely, I can tell you there is one prayer the Lord will answer, that you will grow in him every single day.
Now, for those of you who are visiting, we are looking at the prayers of the great saints in the past, to see how their prayers were answered, and in this case, we're gonna see why Habakkuk's prayer was not answered. And we saw first the prayer of Daniel, then we saw the incredible prayer of Eliezer, the chief of staff of Abraham, and here today we look at the prayer of Habakkuk. Now turn with me, if you haven't already, to chapter 3 of that great book. In the first two verses of that prayer, chapter 3, he said, "Lord, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deed, O Lord. Renew them," that is, the deeds of God, the work of God. "Renew them in our day, in our time make them known. In wrath remember mercy".
Now, you have to understand the background of the book of Habakkuk to understand this prayer, particularly chapter 3. He began, chapter 1, he was praying for revival. This is a wonderful prayer. This is the kind of prayer that every believer should be praying. Doesn't God want the revival in his church? Isn't Habakkuk praying according to the will of God? Yes. Then why on earth that God does not want to answer this prayer? Why is he refusing to answer Habakkuk's prayer? Habakkuk himself is baffled as to why God is not answering his prayer, and I'm sure some of you, at some point in your life, you were baffled why God is not answering you, and he said, "Lord, I've been crying to you. I've been praying to you. Why are you not answering me"? And it's happening here. "God, why are my prayers going unanswered? Lord, why is the answer to my prayer being delayed? What can be more glorifying to you, Lord, than to pray for a spiritual awakening in Israel, the apple of your eye, the people that you have chosen from before the foundation of the earth? What can be more great than to see Israel having a spiritual awakening"?
I wanna stop here and remind you of the spiritual condition of Israel at that time. You see, idolatry was rampant in Israel at that time. Sin was rampant in the church. Spiritual life gave way to humanistic endeavors. Their worship was mixed with compromise in their life. The people's commitment to Yahweh was half-hearted, to say the least. The love for Yahweh was cold, to put it mildly. Oh, they went to church. They went to church, but they worshipped prosperity and selfishness. They believed in God, but they worshipped the self. They became tolerant of other religions that they brought them into the church. They were so tolerant of abomination practices, that they placed it in the pulpits.
So to say this man is praying for a revival, you would say that is most desperately needed. That prayer is absolute necessity to pray for revival in the heart of Israel at this time. You agree, right? But, finally, when God answers Habakkuk, "I've heard your prayer. I've heard you, and I will answer your prayer, but not now, not yet". "Oh"? "Ah, yeah, first, I'm gonna be sending Israel into exile". "Oh, come on, Lord, that's not the kind of answer I'm looking for. That is not the kind of response I was hoping for. This is not the kind of thing I really want. Lord, that's not what I prayed for. How can a merciful God do such a thing? How can a loving God allow wicked people like the Babylonians to punish his own people, the apple of his eye? How can God allow bad things to happen to good people"?
And God's answer come in chapter 2, verse 4, particularly, and by the way, it's the most quoted verse in the New Testament. Lord said, "Look, see how it's puffed up," talkin' about Babylon. "His desires are not upright. I know that, but the righteous will live by faith". Can we say that together? "The righteous shall live by faith". God is saying to Habakkuk, "Habakkuk, listen, I understand times are tough, times are bad, spiritually speaking, but it's gonna get worse". I don't know about you, that's not what I wanna hear. "Oh, but the righteous shall live by faith". Yes, God is gonna punish Babylon. Yes, God is gonna take care of the arrogant. Yes, God will judge the wicked, but he's gonna protect his faithful ones.
"No matter what happens, no matter what the future brings, no matter what suffering ahead, no matter what the economy does and does not do, no matter what the politicians do or do not do, no matter what goes down, Habakkuk, you must understand that I'm in control of history, that I sit on the throne of the rim of the universe, that I will never forsake the faithful". Now I come to the prayer itself. Look at chapter 3. I want you to see three things here that I want to share with you very briefly. First, in verses 1 and 2, you see it's a prayer of humility. It's a prayer of humility. And then, in verses 3 to 15, you see there is a prayer of adoration of God and what he has done.
And, thirdly, you see the prayer focus now is on God, not even a revival, but on God himself, verses 16 to 19. First, he starts with humility. He's coming to God, not talking about all the things that he has done or Israel has done for God. No, he is broken before God. He's in humility before God. Some of you are saying, "Well, where do you get humility here"? Well, look at verse 1. He said, "I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord". Let me tell you something, that word "awe," I wish I can explain it to you in English. It's all-encompassing. "I am literally speechless. I'm shattered. My knees are knocking. I'm absolutely in awe of you, O God".
See, in the first chapter, Habakkuk was questioning God. He really was. "God, why are you not answering my prayer? God, where are you when I need you? God, why don't you do something, God? God, why is revival delayed? Why what I'm praying for is not coming about"? Between chapter 1 and chapter 3, something happened to the man Habakkuk, something drastically has happened in his life, and it's the very thing that God wants in all of his children. I thank God for your services for God, but God cares more about the servant and his and her life, than the service. God can do anything he wants to do. He can us anybody, but he cares deeply about you, your walk with him, and something drastically happened in this man's life, Habakkuk, between chapter 1 and chapter 3. What happened? He learned to take his mind and his eyes off of himself, off of the Israelites, and off of the Babylonians, and off of all the stuff that's going on around him, and began to focus on God alone.
Listen to me. As long as we are operating on a human level, as long as we compare the level of righteousness between the Israelites and the Babylonians, as long as he was comparing himself with others, something we tend to do, as long as he was concerned about who is worse than whom, he was asking God, "Why? Why're you not answering my prayer"? But once he took his eyes off his surroundings, once he took his eyes off who's up and who's down, as soon as he took his eyes off who's in and who's out, and he once placed his eyes squarely on the righteousness of God and who God is, then all of that other stuff melted away.
There are some people pray like that Pharisee that Jesus talks about that went to the temple and would say, "O God, in comparison to Mr. Smith, I'm really much better. Answer my prayer". "O Lord, in comparison to Mrs. Jones over there, I am much better. Answer my prayer". Wrong, wrong prayer, wrong prayer. That attitude will never get your prayers answered. It's like the man R.A. Torrey, and one day, he got a letter from a man, and the man was saying to him, "I'm disappointed with God. I don't know why he's not answering my prayers. I have been a faithful church member for 30 years," and that wise man, Torrey, wrote to him the following. He said, "Your prayers are in your name and on the basis of your merits, not in that of Jesus".
How to approach God will determine the effectiveness of your prayer. First, he came to the Lord in humility. Secondly, and the second secret for effective prayer, is adoration. In fact, the bulk of that chapter is prayer and adoration of who God is and what God has done. The word "worship," we get it from the Latin root, "worth-ship". What is God worth to you? When you're worshipping him alone in the privacy of your prayer closet, what is God worth to you? What is God worth to you in your giving and in the finances that he blessed you with? What is he worth to you? A few dollars? What is God worth to you? As you worship him publicly, as you worship him privately, what is he worth to you? And, yet, most people, when they pray and they wanna come to God, they want to come to God with their grocery list: "Lord, give me five of this, six of that, ten of the other, and give me two of this one".
There's nothing wrong with coming to the Lord with your needs. Don't misunderstand me, but entrance into the throne room of God is to adore who he is, is expression of what he is worth to you. And some would say, "Well, yeah, oh, no, no, and I'm supposed to give thanks. Lord, thank you, thank you for this, and thank you for that. Let me get back to my grocery list". He knows our heart. He knows the depth of who we are, and that is why the psalmist said, "It is only when you delight yourself in the Lord, will he give you the desires of your heart".
Listen, when you spend time delighting yourself in the Lord, delighting yourself in who he is, delighting yourself in what he has done, delighting yourself in his character, delighting yourself in the fact that he's a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God, delighting yourself in his mercy and in his grace, when you do that, you are going to find yourself asking only for those things that delight his heart. In other words, your heart will be delighted in what delights his heart, and his heart will be delighted in what delights your heart, and there will be an in-and-out connection with God. Somebody might say, "Michael, I don't know how to delight myself in the Lord," and that's a legitimate question. I've been there.
Let me tell you, I'll testify to you, if you ask God, the Holy Spirit, "Lord, teach me how to delight myself in the Lord," I can tell you, the Holy Spirit will answer their prayer. If you genuinely ask him to teach you how to delight yourself in him, he will do that. It was a prayer of humility before God. It was a prayer of adoration of God and, thirdly, Habakkuk's prayer was about God, his work, his righteousness, his glory, who he is, that, in his mercy, he will do whatever he wants to do. He recites all the things that could've gone wrong, no olives, no grapes, no sheep. That's about everything the economy was dependent on, right?
The New York Stock Exchange collapsed. People lost their life's savings. He didn't say it happened, but he said it may happen, but "I'm still gonna delight myself in the Lord," right? That's what he's saying. Oh, he's no longer praying, "O God, the Israelites deserve your mercy because they are your chosen people". That was his prayer first. No more, no more. He's not doing it "because of this, Lord, 'cause of the other thing," no, no, no, no, no, no more, "'cause of who you are". You know, the word "revival" actually means somebody be dead and becomes alive. It is when a spiritually dead person becomes alive through the power of the Holy Spirit, we say, "A revival has taken place in the life of this person".
And the mass revivals that we read about and know about, it was just a lot of people were coming to Christ all at the same time, and, beloved, when we see people turning to Christ, the dead spirits, and the Bible says we're all born with dead spirits, but then the Holy Spirit comes and breathes his life, and we become alive with him. When that begins to happen and we begin to see it, we know we got the revival. Now, some people think a revival is that you get a big stadium, 50,000 people, and they're singing praises to God. Nothing wrong with that. We need more of that, but that's not revival. But when the dead spirits begin to be revived and become alive in Christ and people begin to repent of their sins, confess their sins and receive the forgiveness from his hand, you will know we have a revival.
You see, as long as Habakkuk was concerned about his ministry, his effectiveness, who he is and what he's done, his country Israel and the Babylonians and what is happening, and who's what and who's where, revival was not coming, but once he took his eyes off all of that stuff and began to focus on God and his glory alone, he began to see even the Babylonian exile as part of God's plan to bring about that revival. He began to see even the dark days as in God's plan to bring about the revival. He was praying for a revival in the midst of darkness, and history does tell us that revivals often took place in the midst of the darkest days.
Reformation in the 1500s took place in times of the darkest period in church history. During that time, the church in Europe was in utter disgrace, in utter darkness. Ignorance was rampant. The Bibles were only in Latin, and they were chained to the lectern, so nobody could read them except the priests. Superstition was the norm. They worshipped saints and not God, and they consulted demon-possessed for their life. Luther himself, at some point, hated God, but then he read the words that are New Testament that are quoted here from Habakkuk, that "The righteous shall live by faith," and he was quickened in his spirit and was thoroughly converted to Christ, and he led the Reformation. About 154 years ago in New York City, at that time, the United States of America was in a grip of economic depression. God moved in the life of a businessman. He was no preacher. He was a businessman by the name of Jeremiah Lanphier.
Now, he announced in the newspapers that he's gonna have a prayer meeting for people to come and pray for America, pray for a revival that God will send a Holy Spirit revival, and he rented a room. It had 11 seats in it. Very few people showed up. Very few people showed up. Week after week after week, he never gave up, and he continued to pray with the few people that came, and then, in time, God began to honor that humble prayer, and then the room overflowed into the church halls, all over Manhattan, and from Manhattan, all over New York, and then all over the United States. A revival broke, and that was the last time America has seen a genuine Holy Spirit awakening. The one thing that prayers for revival had in common was the words of Habakkuk: "In wrath remember mercy". It's not because we are good to you, God, we have been faithful to you, God, we have done this for you, God. No, "but in wrath remember mercy". Can we say that together? "In wrath remember mercy".