“Lord I have heard of your fame…” Habakkuk 3:2
Scholars believe Habbakuk wrote at the tail end of the 7th Century BC, as the Babylonian Empire was on the rise and marching towards Jerusalem. His book is an attempt to wrestle with God about the threat Babylon posed to Israel and her purposes the world. In this prayer, the prophet Habakkuk recalls God’s mighty works in the past, especially the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. As Babylon prepares to lay waste to Jerusalem as a means of God’s judgment, Habbakuk prays for God to renew his deeds and God’s fame. This is a prayer for revival. Habbakuk is aware of the weakened state of the people of God and of the need for God’s intervention to cleanse and redeem and empower them once again. And this is what we need today as well. The Church in our time, especially in the West, especially in New England, desperately needs God to intervene and pour out his life and power on us.
Throughout history, the life of God’s people has never been a steady record of achievements…rather, like a sine wave, her life has ebbed and flowed in seasons of declines and renewals. Like gravity or entropy, the spiritual life of God’s people and the human race is subject to the decaying forces of sin and death. Over time, all societies decay spiritually…as ours certainly seems to be doing now. But because of his mercy, God intervenes in this downward spiral, sending his Holy Spirit to bring renewal. The story of the Bible and of Church history is a story of these renewals, some of which have happened in our own city. In 1820, a great revival swept Providence. And a significant percentage of the city came to a knowledge of Jesus and entered the church that year.
We are in desperate need of revival today. The church is in a long season of decline in the West, stretching back to the revivals of the early 1970s. The affiliation with Christianity has declined faster in this past decade than at any point in our nation’s history. And these trends show no signs of abating. Our nation is seized by increasing anxiety and political polarization. We need God to show up, as Habbakuk did. The good news is that the Church, even in America, has been here before. There have been seasons of spiritual deadness and decay in the past. One example is the season in the late 1700s, after the American Revolution. Here the French writer Voltaire famously predicted that Christianity would be dead in thirty years. The Church, however, began praying in earnest, asking God to renew his power and presence. Some churches in New England began prayer meetings that lasted 60 years until the Civil War. Essentially what they prayed is this: “God we want you here.” The result of this cry from the heart was, among other things, the Second Great Awakening. Waves of revivals lasting sixty years swept through the nation and gave us much we still hold dear…including the abolitionist movement, many of our colleges and universities, hospitals, charities, and the global missions movement.
It is time, like Habakkuk, for us to pray once again for God to renew his fame and deeds in our time. Over the next week plus, we are praying this prayer: “God, we want you here!” But we must mean it. We must pray this from the heart. Perhaps you feel apathetic as many of us do when we begin to fast and pray, that’s okay. Lean in and ask God to stir and awaken spiritual hunger in your hearts. Whether you feel it or not, you need more of God. So ask him for more.
God, I want you in my life. I want you in my family/my friends/my home church. We want you in our church. We need you in our city and nation.
God comes where he is wanted.