I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. (Isaiah 63:7)
Isaiah is about to make some bold requests of God (starting in 63:15), but before he gets there, he tells of God’s kindnesses, mighty deeds, and compassion. God sympathizes with his people when they are in distress (verse 9), forbears even in our rebellion (verse 10), and has proven himself faithful to his people throughout generations (verses 11-14).
But here’s the key question: To whom is Isaiah speaking? Whom is he helping remember these splendid truths about God? Well, this is a prayer. That means he is talking to God about God. One suspects God already knows this about himself, so Isaiah’s purpose here is to remind himself about the God he is about to petition. This is, I might add, the ordinary pattern in Scripture.
For example, in Psalm 139, David needs help because some wicked adversaries are bringing trouble against him. But before he asks God to do anything about that, he spends eighteen verses talking to God about God! God is the sovereign, ever-present, all-knowing, all-wise Creator who forms us even in the womb. David reminds himself of these glorious realities before making his request because he needs to remember who God is first. Once he and Isaiah recall God’s glory, they can bring their needs to God confidently, knowing God hears and cares, knowing his will (so they ask aright), and taking solace in his sweet and precious promises.
This is a good lesson for us today. We often (despite the model prayer Jesus taught us) leap directly to our requests. When we do that, we lack confidence. We pray timid, half-hearted prayers, because we’re not sure if God is listening—and even if he is listening, we’re not sure he’ll grant us what we ask. But when we begin with Scripture, with the true account of God’s character and the explicit promises he’s given us, we can “besiege heaven,” as it were, boldly calling on God to be who he is.
Now, that might change the nature of our requests (we often want things for which there is no promise), but that, too, is a help for us. God does not promise to change our circumstances, for example, but he does promise to give us peace in the midst of them, and to use even the most trying days to conform us to the image of his Son. Reminding ourselves of that—talking to God about God before we get to our laundry list of needs—we will experience the comfort of confidence.
One final thought: This is one reason why I would so encourage you to turn your daily meditation on God’s Word into prayer. What did the passage before you say about God? Talk to him about that. What promises do you see in the passage, and how are those promises all “Yes and Amen” in Christ? Ask with confidence for God to deliver on those promises—in his way and his time—for he is unfailingly faithful to his word.