Praying Through God's Story

Originally published Tuesday, 06 May 2014.

This is a follow up to my post last week, When Life Doesn't Make Sense

When I face a trial in my life, I often ask questions such as "Why me?" or "Really? Again?" I feel overwhelmed and burdened by the pains of life and don't believe I am strong enough to bear another trial. When all that is going on around me makes no sense and injustice abounds at every turn, I feel hopeless.

In my previous post, I talked about following the story God is writing. In following the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, we are reminded why things are the way they are and what God has done about it. Following the story gives us hope in the midst of our struggles.

One of the ways we can follow the story is through prayer. When life doesn't make sense and when we can't figure out what God is doing and why, we can pray through the story.

In Habakkuk, the prophet cried out to God about the egregious sins of the people. Idolatry was rampant. Habakkuk could not understand why God wasn't doing anything about it. Then he learned that God would do something about, in the most expected way: through the Babylonians. As Habakkuk works through his confusion and hears more of God's plan, he responds in prayer.

In Habakkuk 3, the prophet prays through the story.

"Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy" (vs. 2). The prophet speaks of God's holy purposes and his grace. He prays a prayer of trust, resting in God's perfect and righteous plan.

He then remembered God's faithfulness to Israel in the past, beginning with the judgement against Egypt: "His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps" (vs. 4-5).

He recalled how God helped them defeat their enemies in the land of Canaan, "The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear" (vs.11).

And in so praying through all that God had done in the story of the Israelites, he trusted in God and found his joy in him. Habakkuk ends his prayer with:

"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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights" (3:17-19).

In Nehemiah, a remnant had returned from exile and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. God's word was read to them (chapter 8). They felt the weight of their sin and prayed a prayer of repentence, praying through their story.

They prayed through the story of creation:

"Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you." (Nehemiah 9:5-6)

They prayed through the call of Abraham and recalled God's faithfulness in bringing their ancestors to the Promised Land. They prayed through the Exodus and God's provision for them in the wilderness. They prayed through all that God had done for them in their history. They recalled his faithfulness and all the ways they had violated God's commands. And they confessed their sins.

Whether we are going through an unexplainable trial or a season of discipline or just need to pour out our heart's to God, praying through the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption can help us to follow the story God has written and is writing. As we pray, we can't help but be amazed at all that God has done. We can't help but become undone by his endless mercy and grace. And on this side of the cross, we have seen the Old Testament promises fulfilled in Christ. We have seen God's faithfulness poured out for us at the cross.

Praying through the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption reminds us of who God is and what he has done. As we follow the story of his works in history, culminating in his Son, Jesus Christ, we realize that God is a covenant keeper. He fulfills his promises. He does not abandon us. Like Habakkuk, we can watch and wait, and rejoice in the God of our salvation.

Praying Through the Story:

1. Creation: Pray through the wonders of God's power and might in creating all that we see with just the power of his word. Consider what it means that God desired to share his love with a people created in his image. Praise him in adoration for his might, power, creativity, and wisdom.

2. Fall: Follow the story of the fall in prayer, recalling what happened in the Garden where Adam and Eve fell into sin. Pray through the effects the fall has had on all of life and creation since then. Confess that you are a sinner. Repent of your sins and seek God's help in fighting against the sin in your life.

3. Redemption: Follow the story of God's redemption. Look at God's faithfulness throughout the Old Testament and the way he fulfilled his promises in Christ. Review your own exodus from sin at the cross. Dwell in prayer on the marvelous grace and mercy of God. Thank him for your redemption in Christ.

4. The Future: Pray through the hope you have because of what Christ has done. Respond in gratitude and praise. Pray for help to trust and not fear. Fix your gaze on Christ and your heavenly home. Look ahead to the promises that remain. Trust in God's past faithfulness to sustain you into the unknown future.

"Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." Psalm 40:5