The Power of Prayer Amidst Chaos

Taylor Turkington

by Taylor Turkington

Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.



You and I often hear about the power of prayer. We pray for revival. We pray to open doors for the gospel. We pray for freedom for the oppressed and blessing on our children. These are faithful prayers God’s people have offered throughout history.

But those aren’t the only prayers. There is also a legacy of prayers of protest. These are the prayers modeled with tenacity by many in the Bible who see the world’s suffering and declare our need for help.

Multiple times in my life, this world’s chaos has felt like too much. It felt like too much when leaders’ poor choices broke my heart. When my health issues meant I didn’t know how I would make it through the pain or if the treatments would work. Or when we sat reeling, wondering what we could possibly do after life and ministry plans fell to pieces.

What do we pray then? What do we say to God in the chaos and suffering?

Facing the Brokenness Like a Prophet

One of the Old Testament prophets gives us his prayer journey. It begins with his protest prayer, and we learn about the power of lament. Habakkuk says:

“How long, Lord, must I call for help
and you do not listen
or cry out to you about violence
and you do not save?”
Habakkuk 1:2

Do you hear him? We may be tempted to think this an impertinent accusation of God. But this is exactly how we can pray in heartbreak. We describe what we see and ask “How long until you do something?” It’s a prayer offered in faith; grounded in our belief that God is good, just, and powerful.

If you’re paying attention, you know this world is broken and you’ve asked “God, what are you doing?” You’ve felt the injustice as you’ve read the news, heard decisions that ignored the vulnerable, or you’ve been overlooked yourself. Perhaps you’ve felt anger and discouragement like Habakkuk’s rise in your chest.

In Habakkuk’s conversation with God, he doesn’t get all the answers. Instead, he receives from the Lord a vision of how to live in chaos: you live by faith, Habakkuk. (Hab. 2:4) Then, the Lord describes his justice in a song of woe against those who mistreat and abuse others. Friend, we live in this world by honest prayers to and faith in a just God. This is the way of prayer in suffering.

Habakkuk processed what he heard. It’s as if he takes a breath and then responds to God with some of the bravest words of prayer in the Bible. The prophet declares he remembers God’s work in the past and asks him to revive it again. Next, he describes God’s power. And then he courageously says that no matter what he loses, he’ll rejoice in the God who saves him (Hab. 3: 17-19). Habakkuk’s words reveal prayer in suffering that is rich with brutal honesty, confident faith, and gritty hope because of who God is.

Praying with Faith

Habakkuk maps out the way to pray in suffering. So, when we’re sitting in the fog of grief, we can put our feet in his footsteps. Here are three ways to pray when the world feels shaky:

1. Lament with honesty. Tell God how you truly feel about what’s going on. We don’t have to walk away from God with our emotions of anger, fear, and anxiety. He welcomes us, and Habakkuk models how to speak to him instead of just about him. When we declare that the world is not just, good, or right, we can also affirm that our God is exactly those things. In faith, we tell God, “We see a discrepancy!”

2. Ask with confidence. We ask God to do something when we lament. “Make it right, Lord!” Still, as Habakkuk is praying to God, even disagreeing with him, we see the prophet confess his character. Habakkuk calls him “my Rock,” “my Holy One,” and him from eternity (Hab. 1:12). Later he calls him “the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18). We don’t pray with confidence that God will do exactly as we expect, but we pray with confidence in who he is and who we are to him—his people. Sometimes this is as simple as “Have mercy, my Savior” or “Help, Father.”

3. Pray with hope. When circumstances turn dark, our hearts may fear, rage, or tremble. Habakkuk’s did (3:16). Yet, he shows his grief, anger, and sadness co-mingled with faith. The prophet looked forward knowing things would get worse before they got better, and yet, he hoped. No matter what he lost, he would never lose God, he declared. Therefore, he would beg God to work. He would wait, knowing his God would continue to give him strength to stand (3:19).

Habakkuk’s journey has steadied me. Not with cliché prayer or stoic denial of hardship, but with real, sometimes trembling faith. There is power in protest-prayers of lament, when the chaos feels like too much. Our God hears us and welcomes us. He reminds us he is working and committed to his people. And he calls us to faith. It’s then we can say with Habakkuk: Though we lose it all, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation (Hab. 3:17-18).




Taylor Turkington (MA, DMin) directs the training ministry BibleEquipping where she also teaches and coaches Bible teachers. Previously, she directed training ministries for The Gospel Coalition and Western Seminary, and today serves on the board of an evangelical seminary. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family where she enjoys growing tall flowers, drinking great tea, and paddling the rivers. She is the author of Trembling Faith: How a Distressed Prophet Helps us Trust God in a Chaotic World.