When it comes to the discipline of prayer, we have much to learn from the Scriptures. We can especially learn a lot from the prayers we find in the Old Testament where, in sharp contrast to our surface level preoccupation with the things of this world, the Old Testament saints are characterized by an authentic yearning for God that goes to the deepest desires of the heart. Take the prayer provided in chapter 64 for example.
As you read, it becomes obvious that the one praying is yearning for a sense of God’s presence, which mirrors that of the Sinai Covenant event in Exodus 19. Such an intense manifestation of God’s presence will most certainly bring an awareness of sin, and so we see the one praying acknowledging the sinful condition of the nation, along with God’s righteous judgment for that sinfulness. Just when it seems all hope is lost, an appeal for God’s gracious forgiveness is made, which is based solely on the fact that God is the Father of the nation. This all culminating in a plea for God to mercifully forgive the sins of the people, and graciously restore His favor, as demonstrated by the removal of judgment and return of blessings.
Friends, if such an attitude pervaded the heart of these Old Testament saints, how much more should we that have the Spirit of God living within us pray with fervor and passion; acknowledging our sin and desperately appealing to our Lord’s grace and mercy. Please, do not just speed through these verses, but give careful attention to the heartfelt anguish coming through these inspired words. Then, prayerfully allow that same passion to invade your heart, so that the prayers we offer our Lord will be a reflection of His righteous desires for us.
Isaiah 62-64 (CSB)
1 I will not keep silent because of Zion, and I will not keep still because of Jerusalem, until her righteousness shines like a bright light and her salvation, like a flaming torch. 2 Nations will see your righteousness and all kings, your glory. You will be given a new name that the Lord’s mouth will announce. 3 You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hand, and a royal diadem in the palm of your God’s hand. 4 You will no longer be called Deserted, and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land will be married. 5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so your sons will marry you; and as a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you. 6 Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen on your walls; they will never be silent, day or night. There is no rest for you, who remind the Lord. 7 Do not give him rest until he establishes and makes Jerusalem the praise of the earth. 8 The Lord has sworn with his right hand and his strong arm: I will no longer give your grain to your enemies for food, and foreigners will not drink the new wine for which you have labored. 9 For those who gather grain will eat it and praise the Lord, and those who harvest the grapes will drink the wine in my holy courts. 10 Go out, go out through the city gates; prepare a way for the people! Build it up, build up the highway; clear away the stones! Raise a banner for the peoples. 11 Look, the Lord has proclaimed to the ends of the earth, “Say to Daughter Zion: Look, your salvation is coming, his wages are with him, and his reward accompanies him.” 12 And they will be called the Holy People, the Lord’s Redeemed; and you will be called Cared For, A City Not Deserted.
1 Who is this coming from Edom in crimson-stained garments from Bozrah— this one who is splendid in his apparel, striding in his formidable might? It is I, proclaiming vindication, powerful to save. 2 Why are your clothes red, and your garments like one who treads a winepress? 3 I trampled the winepress alone, and no one from the nations was with me. I trampled them in my anger and ground them underfoot in my fury; their blood spattered my garments, and all my clothes were stained. 4 For I planned the day of vengeance, and the year of my redemption came. 5 I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so my arm accomplished victory for me, and my wrath assisted me. 6 I crushed nations in my anger; I made them drunk with my wrath and poured out their blood on the ground. 7 I will make known the Lord’s faithful love and the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, because of all the Lord has done for us— even the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, which he did for them based on his compassion and the abundance of his faithful love. 8 He said, “They are indeed my people, children who will not be disloyal,” and he became their Savior. 9 In all their suffering, he suffered, and the angel of his presence saved them. He redeemed them because of his love and compassion; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of the past. 10 But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he became their enemy and fought against them. 11 Then he remembered the days of the past, the days of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put his Holy Spirit among the flock? 12 He made his glorious strength available at the right hand of Moses, divided the water before them to make an eternal name for himself, 13 and led them through the depths like a horse in the wilderness, so that they did not stumble. 14 Like cattle that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest. You led your people this way to make a glorious name for yourself. 15 Look down from heaven and see from your lofty home—holy and beautiful. Where is your zeal and your might? Your yearning and your compassion are withheld from me. 16 Yet you are our Father, even though Abraham does not know us and Israel doesn’t recognize us. You, Lord, are our Father; your name is Our Redeemer from Ancient Times. 17 Why, Lord, do you make us stray from your ways? You harden our hearts so we do not fear you. Return, because of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. 18 Your holy people had a possession for a little while, but our enemies have trampled down your sanctuary. 19 We have become like those you never ruled, like those who did not bear your name.
1 If only you would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at your presence— 2 just as fire kindles brushwood, and fire boils water— to make your name known to your enemies, so that nations will tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome works that we did not expect, you who came down, and the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God except you who acts on behalf of the one who waits for him. 5 You welcome the one who joyfully does what is right; they remember you in your ways. But we have sinned, and you were angry. How can we be saved if we remain in our sins? 6 All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind. 7 No one calls on your name, striving to take hold of you. For you have hidden your face from us and made us melt because of our iniquity. 8 Yet Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we all are the work of your hands. 9 Lord, do not be terribly angry or remember our iniquity forever. Please look—all of us are your people! 10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11 Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised you, has been burned down, and all that was dear to us lies in ruins. 12 Lord, after all this, will you restrain yourself? Will you keep silent and afflict us severely?