There is a saying among experienced Christians: don’t ask God for patience. The reason for that is that when we ask for patience, God doesn’t open our minds and pour a couple of ounces of patience in so that we can deal with anything that comes our way. Oh no. Instead, it seems that God answers our prayers for patience with the kinds of trials and tribulations that we can only deal with if we exercise patience. When we are with other Christians discussing prayer concerns and someone asks for patience, those Christians who are “in the know” either laugh silently and sympathetically knowing what’s going to happen or we scream out in our minds, “No! Don’t ask that! You don’t know how God’s gonna answer you!”
Habakkuk didn’t ask for patience, but his situation is instructional for Christians today. He looked at the evil in Judah as the people forsook God and did things their own way. He saw the injustice as the rich oppressed the poor and those in political power exemplified corruption. In the midst of his righteous indignation over the evil events in his land, Habakkuk prayed something reasonable: “God get rid of this injustice.” In fact, he had apparently been praying for a while so that by now his prayer was impatient: “God how long do I need to wait on You to answer?” God finally answered Habakkuk. “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.” (Habakkuk 1:5-6)
Habakkuk’s response was instantaneous. To sum it up in five words, he said, “God, You got it wrong.” Habakkuk had prayed to end the injustice and the answer he got from God was that the injustice caused by those who claimed to know Him would be wiped out by a people who were even more unjust. The country would be destroyed, the people placed into slavery, and there was nothing they could do about it. Habakkuk argued with God noting that the injustice of the pagans would be worse than the injustice of God’s people. He fought for another answer to his prayer, offering God a chance to go back and edit His answer. God would not change the answer – but He called on His people to live righteous lives. The promise was that the righteous person would live by his faithfulness.
I think a lot of us can identify with Habakkuk. We have expectations of God when we pray. We pray outlining the problem but we think we have the best solution planned in the back of our minds. We pray, not seeking God’s answer, but letting Him know what we think would be best. “God, here’s the problem; this should be the answer. Do it. In Jesus’ name.” Then God, in His sovereignty and wisdom comes up with a different answer that is nothing like our plans. We sadly shake our heads either thinking that God didn’t answer our prayers or that God is out of touch with reality. Job had that problem in his troubles. God reminded Job that He was in control. As we pray, we need to remember that God is in control. Perhaps instead of suggesting answers to God when we pray, we should let Him know our concerns and seek His answers. Even if God answers with Babylonians instead of unimaginable wealth, we should recognize God’s hand in the answer.
Oh Lord, far too often I come to You in prayer with my solution already prepared as the answer. Remind me again that You are God. Help me to trust that as I lay my burdens before You, You are already working on the best solution. Let me be faithful to Your call no matter what the solution may be.