Summary: Habakkuk chapter 3 reveals what happens when we stop complaining and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through prayer. The truth is prayer always changes us not God.

The Transforming Power of Prayer – Habakkuk part 4

Thesis: Habakkuk 3 reveals what happens when we stop complaining and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through prayer. The truth is prayer always changes us not God.

Scripture Text: Habakkuk 3:1-19 (NIV)

1A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.

2 LORD, I have heard of your fame;

I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.

Renew them in our day,

in our time make them known;

in wrath remember mercy.

3 God came from Teman,

the Holy One from Mount Paran.


His glory covered the heavens

and his praise filled the earth.

4 His splendor was like the sunrise;

rays flashed from his hand,

where his power was hidden.

5 Plague went before him;

pestilence followed his steps.

6 He stood, and shook the earth;

he looked, and made the nations tremble.

The ancient mountains crumbled

and the age-old hills collapsed.

His ways are eternal.

7 I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,

the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

8 Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD?

Was your wrath against the streams?

Did you rage against the sea

when you rode with your horses

and your victorious chariots?

9 You uncovered your bow,

you called for many arrows.


You split the earth with rivers;

10 the mountains saw you and writhed.

Torrents of water swept by;

the deep roared

and lifted its waves on high.

11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens

at the glint of your flying arrows,

at the lightning of your flashing spear.

12 In wrath you strode through the earth

and in anger you threshed the nations.

13 You came out to deliver your people,

to save your anointed one.

You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,

you stripped him from head to foot.


14 With his own spear you pierced his head

when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,

gloating as though about to devour

the wretched who were in hiding.

15 You trampled the sea with your horses,

churning the great waters.

16 I heard and my heart pounded,

my lips quivered at the sound;

decay crept into my bones,

and my legs trembled.

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity

to come on the nation invading us.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights.

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

Habakkuk 3 – New Living Translation

1This prayer was sung by the prophet Habakkuk:

2I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy.

3I see God, the Holy One, moving across the deserts from Edom and Mount Paran. His brilliant splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise! What a wonderful God he is! 4Rays of brilliant light flash from his hands. He rejoices in his awesome power. 5Pestilence marches before him; plague follows close behind. 6When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills. But his power is not diminished in the least! 7I see the peoples of Cushan and Midian trembling in terror.

8Was it in anger, LORD, that you struck the rivers and parted the sea? Were you displeased with them? No, you were sending your chariots of salvation! 9You were commanding your weapons of power! You split open the earth with flowing rivers! 10The mountains watched and trembled. Onward swept the raging waters. The mighty deep cried out, lifting its hands to the LORD. 11The lofty sun and moon began to fade, obscured by brilliance from your arrows and the flashing of your glittering spear.

12You marched across the land in awesome anger and trampled the nations in your fury. 13You went out to rescue your chosen people, to save your anointed ones. You crushed the heads of the wicked and laid bare their bones from head to toe. 14With their own weapons, you destroyed those who rushed out like a whirlwind, thinking Israel would be easy prey. 15You trampled the sea with your horses, and the mighty waters piled high.

16I trembled inside when I heard all this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. 17Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. 19The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

(For the choir director: This prayer is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.)

Video Illustration: From Videos That Teach - Fields and James

The Movie: Shadowlands

This film depicts the love affair between the author C.S. “Jack’ Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) and an American fan, Joy Gresham (Debra Winger). They grow to love each other after discovering they share many of the same passions and interests. Their happiness is shattered when Joy is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the two of them must learn to make every moment together count.

Clip: 1:35:00

Jack’s Oxford colleagues try to comfort him as he deals with the anguish of knowing that the dearest person in his life is dying of cancer. The discussion turns to the topic of prayer, and jack clarifies his reasons for praying: he is helpless, and prayer doesn’t change God-it changes him.


Prayer to God has the power and the ability to set things in motion in the spiritual realm. But more often than not the prayers to God have the power to change the one who is praying. We pray and our eyes are opened to the spiritual dimension and we get a spiritually renewed or recharged heart. Our circumstances seem less severe and no longer hopeless. Our hope is increased because God speaks to us. I honestly believe that prayer moves mountains and a lot of the times the mountain that is removed is the one in our hearts and minds.

ILL Notebook: Joy (Joni)

Many of us know the story of Joni Eareckson Tada who was paralyzed in a swimming accident and became a quadriplegic. She tells this story:

Honesty is always the best policy, but especially when you’re surrounded by a crowd of women in a restroom during a break at a Christian women’s conference. One woman, putting on lipstick, said, "Oh, Joni, you always look so together, so happy in your wheelchair. I wish that I had your joy!" Several women around her nodded. "How do you do it?" she asked as she capped her lipstick.

"I don’t do it," I said. "In fact, may I tell you honestly how I woke up this morning?"

"This is an average day," I breathed deeply. "After my husband, Ken, leaves for work at 6:00 A.M., I’m alone until I hear the front door open at 7:00 A.M. That’s when a friend arrives to get me up.

"While I listen to her make coffee, I pray, ’Oh, Lord, my friend will soon give me a bath, get me dressed, sit me up in my chair, brush my hair and teeth, and send me out the door. I don’t have the strength to face this routine one more time. I have no resources. I don’t have a smile to take into the day. But you do. May I have yours? God, I need you desperately.’"

"So, what happens when your friend comes through the bedroom door?" one of them asked.

"I turn my head toward her and give her a smile sent straight from heaven. It’s not mine. It’s God’s. And so," I said, gesturing to my paralyzed legs, "whatever joy you see today was hard won this morning."

I have learned that the weaker we are, the more we need to lean on God; and the more we lean on God, the stronger we discover him to be.

Contributed to Sermon Central by Paul Decker

Habakkuk is another example to the power of prayer in changing our hearts and our attitudes. We opened up our Book to discover a very disgruntled prophet upset and even mad at God. He accuses God of really not doing his job. The prophet felt that God needed to judge and deal with the evil that was present in Judah. So he complains to God and asks ‘How Long Lord?” In other words come on “God do something!” “Do your job because sin is out of control in Judah!” So God replies to our disgruntled prophet with the answer that he is going to send the evil nation of the Babylonians to deal with Judah’s sin. Well once again our prophet gets an attitude with God because he does not like God’s answer to his prayer. He believes God is making a mistake sending and evil nation to judge righteous Judah. He in essence says Lord “Hello God! You don’t use evil to do good!”, “Your holy God you cannot do this to a nation that is more righteous then these barbarians. Come on God this is wrong!” We discover that our prophet must have cried out right after God’s reply to his first complaint but now there must have been a time of silence from God to our prophet about this complaint. Because our prophets says in essence, “Why are you silent Lord? Answer me!” Well God does not answer right away instead He chooses to wait. Our prophet has to endure a time of silence. When God does decide to answer the prophet He chooses not to answer the questions of Habakkuk. Instead he tells Habakkuk that He will judge sin and the righteous will live by faith. In other words Habakkuk I know what I am doing and you need to trust the path that I have chosen to restore this nation to me. This is not the answer our prophet wanted to here I am sure of that. So now we come to Chapter three in our story of the disgruntled prophet of God. We enter into chapter three with a noticeable difference in the tone and the attitude of our prophet as he prays to God after his second complaint is responded to by God. That’s why I come back to the phrase said by C.S. Lewis, “He is helpless, and prayer doesn’t change God-it changes him.”

This is why Habakkuk chapter three is a song - it’s a praise and prayer song to God for His greatness.

*Barns notes on the OT: Habakkuk’s title, on Shigionoth (plural) then would mean upon, or (as we should say,) “set to” music of psalms of this sort o The number “three” remarkably predominates in this psalm (Hab. 3:6 has 15 words, in five combinations of three words; Hab. 3:3, 10 have 12 words, in four 3’s: Hab. 3:4, 9, 19 have 9 words in three 3’s: Hab. 3:5, 12, 15, 18 have 6 words in two 3’s: Hab. 3:17 is divided into 4-3-3-4-3-3; Hab. 3:8 is 3-3-3-3-2; Hab. 3:11 is 4-3-3; Hab. 3:16 is 3-3-3-2-2-2-3. This forces itself on every reader. Delitzsch quotes the Meor. Enaim, i. 60, “The prayer of Habakkuk goeth on three’s”) yet so that long measures are succeeded by very short.

*Easton’s Bible Dictionary: Shiggaion- Hab. 3:1. The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambicode.

T.S. - Prayer always changes circumstances and a lot the times the change happens to us on the inside so that in spite of our circumstances we can still praise and sing honor to God for his faithfulness.

I. Habakkuk’s attitude changed because he prayerfully meditated on the past history of God’s intervention in the lives of the Israelite people and remembered.

a. Habakkuk opens up his prayer of praise to God with a noticeable reverence to God for being an awesome God.

i. In verse 2 he states plainly, “God I am filled with amazement at what you have done in the past for the nation of Israel.”

1. Maybe in the time of silence from God our prophet went back to the law-the Torah and read about all the great miracles God did for the people of Israel to bless them with freedom from Egyptian slavery.

2. He re-read all the miracles He did.

ii. Contributor to Sermon Central: Paul Decker in his sermon “A singing faith.” Says:

1. The next part of Habakkuk’s prayer is a review of history.

There is a repetitive Old Testament command when it comes to history. It is “don’t forget” and “remember.”

Whenever you get discouraged, remember what God has done. And though the circumstances of life change, remember that God does not. So, as we give consideration to this poem, we understand that…

When God came in history, nothing could stand in His way. Throughout this wonderful piece of poetry, there is imagery that demonstrates God’s power. The imagery speaks to the plagues and the delivery of Israel from Egypt. There is reference to the parting of the Red Sea and the Shekinah glory. We also see Joshua’s battle with the Amorites mentioned when God cause the sun to stand still in the sky.

There is also an allusion to the story of David and Goliath.

In each of these instances, God has moved powerfully.

2. The best way to deal with adversity and evils corruption of society is to go back in history and remind ourselves of God s great intervention in the lives of individuals and in nations.

a. We also need to even go back into our lives and remember the times when God intervened in our lives personally.

i. This is one reason why so many pastors encourage people to right down their prayers and then record when they have been answered. So we can go back and read how God intervened in our lives.

ii. There are five kind of God moments we need to occasionally go back and remember in our lives. These come from Alan Wright’s book “The God Moment Principle”:

1. Amazing Rescue- A moment when God guarded you, healed you, rescued you, or made a way out for you.

2. Holy Attraction – A moment when God led you toward healthier path, enabled you to resist a temptation, or inspired you to take the high road.

3. Unearned Blessing – A moment when God gave you an unexpected blessing or an undeserved gift.

4. Revealed Truth – A moment when God spoke to you through the Bible, inner peace, wise counsel, or a God-inspired message.

5. Valuable Adversity – A moment in which God sustained you in difficult time or made you stronger through the test of adversity.

b. We also need to look back in history to how God has intervened on our behalf as a nation in very difficult times. How when people prayed God did a miracle to stop evil.


50 Christian truckers got together to pray to pray that somehow the sniper terrorizing the Washington, DC area would be caught. Ron Lantz would be retiring as a driver in a few days and didn’t even live in the area, but he felt sure that God would answer their prayers. In fact, he told the others there that God was going to use him to catch the sniper.

A few days later he was listening to the radio as he was driving again through the region and felt compelled to pull off the highway to a rest stop. It was just a couple of miles from where the prayer meeting had taken place. As he pulled in, he was shocked to see a car similar to what was being described on the radio right there before his eyes.

Carefully trying to read the license plate, a chill went up his back as the numbers matched. He quickly called 911 and remained there for what he said were the longest 15 minutes of his life until the police arrived. He even pulled his truck across the exit, there would now be no escape for these elusive murderers. The rest is now history-the snipers were taken into custody without incident.

Ron’s testimony is being beamed around the world today. It shows the power of prayer. And in a class act, showing his true character, when asked what he would do with the award money, he said the half million dollars would simply be given to the victims’ families.

The snipers killed 10 and wounded 3 around our nation’s capital over the past three weeks, leaving the entire region in a state of terror. Yet out of the great darkness has also come a great beam of light as the world has heard a clear testimony of the power of prayer.

SOURCE: Kids can join at It’s free!

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ii. God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it. --John Wesley

II. Habakkuk’s attitude changed because He went back into God’s Word and saw things through the eyes of faith and not the eyes of the flesh.

a. He listens to God’s message to him in chapter 2 “The righteous will live by faith” --- not by natural sight.

i. They will see their situation through the eyes of His faith.

1. Hebrews 11:1- 40: “Faith Chapter”

a. 1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. 5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 7By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. 20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.21By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 22By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. 23By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 32And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

b. Faith is the Key to being able to overcome adversity in this life.

c. Faith is the key in doing what others would say is impossible.

d. Faith is the key in receiving hope in midst of what looks like a hopeless situation.

e. Faith is the key to becoming a hero for God.

f. Faith is the key for being able to press on through the pain when things look even more painful.

g. Faith is the key to reaching heaven in spite of the road blocks that appear in our path.

h. Faith is the key to be able to see what others cannot see.

i. Faith is the key to living and not giving up and dieing.


Philip Crosby, in his book "March Till They Die," gives an account of a forced march that American and European soldiers who had been captured had to endure in Korea.

It was November of 1950, and the North Koreans were being pushed north. As they went, they forced the American and European prisoners to go with them. It was a terrible march. They were driven as far as twenty miles a day at times, though it was cold and they were emaciated, hungry, suffering.

When prisoners who couldn’t keep up would fall back, shots would ring out. They were executed on the spot. Crosby and several other Christians would pass close to the GI’s who were having a hard time keeping up. They would say slowly in a whisper, so as not to be heard, “God is near us in this dark hour. His love is real. His mercy is real. His forgiveness is real. His reward is waiting for us.”

If it had not been for that hope, many more would have died. They were literally marching through the valley of the shadow of death, but they were trusting in the Great Shepherd to lead them through it.

SOURCE: in "The Great Shepherd" by Rodney Buchanan on

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2. Habakkuk changed his perception of things because he was able to go back and look at the present circumstances through the eyes of faith.

a. Result was his attitude changed.

b. When Habakkuk looked at things through the eyes of faith he quit complaining and started singing praises and prayers of honor to God.

c. Maxwell notes “Once Habakkuk grasps God’s leadership of the world, he can lead with confidence and poise. He once felt perplexed; now he has peace. He once felt confused; now he has contentment. He once felt fearful; now he has faith in the future God has planned. The only thing that changed? His perspective!” (Maxwell Leadership Bible page 1109).

3. Habakkuk’s attitude changed because He committed to following the Lord no matter what the circumstances looked like in his life.


Our attitude like Habakkuk’s can be changed if we learn the lessons he did:

1. We need to learn to look back at God’s intervention in history and remember what he has done for each of us in our lives and in our nation’s life. Then we need to pray to Him and thank Him for his faithfulness.

2. We need to stop looking at our life in the eyes of the flesh but look at our circumstances in the eyes of faith.

Faith will always remind us that He is in control.

Faith will always give us a hope and a future.

Faith will always redirect our thoughts and attitudes back to giving God praise and honor.

Faith will always lift up our spirits.

Faith will always bring us to a new perception in this life.

Faith will lead us into the Hall of Fame for God

3. We need to allow the power of prayer to change us from the inside out.

Altar call: Play the DVD “I Will Sing” challenge the congregation to look at their complaints in life to God and wait-listen-learn-trust and be quiet as he assures them all is well and will be well as they put their lives into His hands.