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One religious saint described an especially painful time in his life as “the dark night of the soul.”
The Psalm writer cried out, when God seemed absent in words that were repeated by Jesus on the cross.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22.1)
The last chapters of Isaiah mingle hopeful passages of God’s grace with a cry of abandonment.
Pray with Boldness
Isaiah interceded for the people of his day. His words reflect what the people felt, as they experience the seeming distance of God.
Look down from heaven and see,
from your lofty throne, holy and glorious.
Where are your zeal and your might?
Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us. (Isaiah 63.15)
If you are sensitive to God’s presence, you will experience times when he seems far away. God appears to be in heaven and far away from what is happening to you.
Circumstances may be so hopeless that all of God’s promises seem to vanish like the morning dew.
The Bible encourages us to tell God exactly what we feel. We don’t have to hold back. We can ask him what has happened to his compassion, because we sense so little of it.
We also can remind God of our relationship with him, as did Isaiah.
But you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel acknowledge us;
you, Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name. (Isaiah 63.16)
The relationship of God’s people and his reputation are both mentioned in this verse.
This is bold praying. Isaiah seemed to be reminding God of the relationship that he formed with his people. The implied question was, “Aren’t you going to do something for your friends?”
Isaiah also brought up God’s reputation with the use of the “name.” God formed the Israelite nation. If they failed, it would diminish his reputation.
Isaiah’s praying was passionate for God to do something for his people. His example is one that the Bible encourages us to follow.
If you feel distant from God, you can paraphrase Isaiah’s words or use the Psalms. Many of the Psalms take up this theme in prayer.
Ask for Grace
A consistent theme of the Bible is that God reaches out to humans before we ever reach out to him.
A frightening thought is that if we have no heart to reach out to God, it is because he has chosen to not reach to us in grace.
Isaiah gave voice to this issue and prayed for the people.
Why, Lord, do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes that are your inheritance. (Isaiah 63.17)
If your heart is hard and you have become comfortable with your sin, you are in trouble. The best thing to do is to beg God to help you repent.
If a nation has turned from God and seems to have no desire to follow him, it is crucial for lovers of God to pray for a return to God.
The prayer here is addressed to God and says, “Return for the sake of your servants.” This is an appeal for mercy. We can only return to God, if he first returns to us in compassion, grace and mercy.
If you are like me and are concerned about the state of the world, you don’t have to sit back and wring your hands in hopelessness. You can use Isaiah’s words to ask God to return to us, so we can return to him.
Another Bold Appeal
Intercession, like with this passage and the Psalms of Lament, teaches us to be bold in our appeal to God.
For a little while your people possessed your holy place,
but now our enemies have trampled down your sanctuary.
We are yours from of old;
but you have not ruled over them,
they have not been called by your name. (Isaiah 63.18-19)
When the enemy of our soul is ruling the day and trampling down society, bold prayer is called for.
Israel was defined by their relationship with God. If they were defeated by their enemies, the nations would be able to say that God was not able to care for them.
Not all humor that is aimed at Christians is deserved. However, some of our behavior is deserving of the world’s mocking laughter.
When we are guilty, it is time to pray. We can ask God to return to us, so we can return to him.
Isaiah prayed for God to set his people right, so that they could honor him before the world.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you! (Isaiah 64.1-2)
I hope you will use this article to pray for yourself and for people who are struggling with a sense of God’s distance from them.
Please also use the verses from Isaiah to pray for our nation and the nations of the world. Your prayers will make a difference.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage in today’s video on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Please take a look. Rudy has many insights to the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer request to email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.