4th December 2023

The Old Testament lectionary reading this week, Isaiah 64.1–9, prompted some thoughts about prayer.

A paraphrase of the first verse could be: “If only you had come down from heaven…” How often have we prayed something like that? We suffer, or we see others suffering, and cry to God, “if only you had…” Prayer that is heart-felt begins just where we are – in need of God.

Isaiah’s prayer then looks back to what God had done for his people in the past. Sometimes prayer can be remembering what God has done for us. Other times that can seem too difficult – then we must “remember” what we have heard God has done, maybe in words of scripture or stories of others.

This remembering is followed by a confession of the nation’s sin – the rejection of God’s way in favour of the beliefs and practices of the nations around them. Doing what was right in their own eyes. Sometimes it can be a prayer of confession that we need to utter.

But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

(Isaiah 64: 8, ESV)

Old Testament scholar Alec Motyer says: “the child would not be there but for the father, nor the pot but for the potter, nor the artifact but for the craftsman.” In prayer, we come before the God who loves us (our Father), forms us (potter) and cares for us (the work of his hand).

At the beginning of advent, we remember that God has come down from heaven and it is to the incarnate God that we pray.

Ian Waddington