The uncertainty leading up to the Presidential election drove many to their knees in prayer, regardless of political affiliation. For many conservative Christians, concern for the unborn and convictions about marriage or sexuality informed their prayers. For some of them, and for others, concern for ethics and morality in society (especially among our leaders), passion for the plight of the economically and socially oppressed, and a love for life that demands accessibility to healthcare and recognition of civil rights for people most vulnerable to discrimination and bullying inspired their prayers. Some on both sides either ignored the others’ concerns or dismissed them as hypocritical or simplistic, unconstitutional or demonic. Fear of violence and civil unrest, whether the violence was prompted by response to violence against unarmed citizens or by allegiance to white supremacy, also led Christians to pray. Americans across the political spectrum have feared that our system of government might be at risk, whether from socialism or from authoritarian leaders who disregard constitutional procedures. I think it’s fair to say that such fear remains even after the election with former Vice-President Joe Biden projected to have won the election, but President Donald Trump refusing to concede.
The prayer of Habakkuk in chapter 1 of his prophecy seems relevant for people across the political spectrum to me. The prophet feared invasion of Israel by a pagan superpower. He also lamented the injustice he witnessed already in his nation. He prayed:
“How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2-4).
God’s answer startled the prophet. His divine strategy to resolve the collapse of justice among Israelites was to unleash “a feared and dreaded people…a law to themselves [who] promote their own honor” (verse 7). God’s plan to discipline his people and reset them on a right course would employ means and agents that shocked Habakkuk.
God’s plan for our times may confuse us. We may wonder why he does not hear our cries against violence, abuse of power, and disregard for the helpless. God assured Habakkuk that faith would provide fuel for survival (2:4), that God still controls (2:20), and that living in harmony with God empowers (3:16-19). These principles endure, and form the foundation for Peter’s encouraging words to embattled Christians:
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Join with Habakkuk and me in praying for justice. Be prepared for an answer you had not imagined. Live with faith and act with love as you follow Christ (Take time to reflect on his words in Matthew 25:31-46 about priority of action). Pray for Donald Trump and Joseph Biden, Jr. Pray for yourself and for me, hoping that our sentiments are the same as the writer(s) of the book of Hebrews:
“Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way” (Hebrews 13:18)
• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version, 2011.