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In Your Distress, Talk with God About God

When troubles come, what do we most need? Our instinctive answer is help. When the doctor delivers a difficult diagnosis, we want a treatment plan. When drowning in debt, we crave provision. When our marriage crumbles, we seek counseling.

As Christians, we also think about our spiritual needs in times of trouble: we need prayer; we need God to show up in a mighty way. Certainly we do, but that raises questions: What sort of prayer? For that matter, what sort of God?

Isaiah 63 gives us an unexpected answer to these questions. God’s people face annihilation. They need a divine warrior “marching in the greatness of his strength” (v. 1). The enemy is at the gates. Smoke rises from ruined cities. Enemies have “trampled down [God’s] sanctuary” (v. 18) so that “Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.” The “holy and beautiful” temple where God’s people had long worshiped “has been burned by fire” (64:10–11). If ever a moment called for bold intercession, this was it.

Isaiah will make bold requests of God: “Look down from heaven and see” (63:15), “Return” (v. 17), “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!” (64:1). But not yet. Before he asks, Isaiah speaks about God. He tells of God’s kindnesses, mighty deeds, and compassion (63:7). He speaks of God’s fatherly affection for his people (v. 8), his sympathy when they’re in distress (v. 9). The Lord redeemed his people, forbearing even in their rebellion (v. 10), and he has proven himself faithful to them throughout generations (vv. 11–14).

To whom does Isaiah give this reminder of God’s glory? Remember, this is a prayer. That means Isaiah is talking to God about God. He’s appealing to God’s character as the basis of his petition.

Ordinary Pattern

This is an ordinary pattern. Consider David. In Psalm 139, David seeks help because wicked adversaries are bringing trouble against him. Before asking God to intervene, he spends 18 verses talking to God about God. God is the sovereign, ever-present, all-knowing, all-wise Creator who forms us in the womb. David reminds himself and God of these glorious realities before making his requests, because he needs first to remember who God is.

Isaiah is talking to God about God. He’s appealing to God’s character as the basis of his petition.

In Psalm 27, David rehearses God’s power in a single verse before petitioning God (v. 1). In Nehemiah 9, the Levites lead the people in several long paragraphs of prayerful praise, telling God about his mighty deeds, before asking for help. In Psalm 23, David never makes it to petition, having brought his heart to peace in the Shepherd’s presence. The proportions vary, but the pattern is the same.

Once these saints recall God’s glory, they present their requests confidently, knowing God hears and cares. They first reflect on his character and discern his will (so they ask aright), and then they can take solace in his precious promises.

Needed Reminder

Talking with God about God is a needed lesson today. We often 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. Even if he is, we’re not sure he’ll grant what we ask.

But when we begin with a true account of God’s character and the explicit promises he’s given us, our petitions have a sure foundation. We can besiege heaven, calling on God to be who he is. The bigger God is in our sight, the bolder the petition.

Isaiah counsels Israel’s intercessors, “You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (62:6, NIV). What could sustain intercession like that apart from the knowledge of God’s character and faithfulness?

Talking to God about God may change the nature of our requests. We often want what God hasn’t promised. But that, too, is a help. You may want to pray for a change in your circumstances, but God hasn’t promised such a change. However, he does promise to give you peace amid your circumstances, to use even the most trying days to conform you to Christ’s image. In reminding yourself of that truth—in talking to God about God before you make your plea—you can experience the comfort of confidence that you’re asking in accordance with God’s will.

What It Looks like Practically

Christian, turn your meditation on God’s Word into prayer. Ask what this passage says about God. Pray that truth back to him in adoration. What promises do you see in the passage, and how are those promises “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20)? Ask with confidence for God to deliver on those promises—in his way and time—for he’s unfailingly faithful to his Word.

Maybe you’re facing sexual temptation. Even now you’re considering opening a private tab on your browser. You’re reading this article to distract yourself and to fix your thoughts on Jesus. With each racing heartbeat, you’re muttering, “God, help me,” but you’re not sure he will, because he didn’t seem to the last time you fell. What if you talked to God about God? Remind yourself he gives the living water after which we never thirst again (John 4:13–14)—love that slakes our thirst so we don’t need to seek the false intimacy of pornographic pixels.

When we begin with a true account of God’s character and the explicit promises he’s given us, our petitions have a sure foundation.

Perhaps you have a difficult colleague slandering you. Talk to God not about the conflict but about God: “You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Ps. 3:3). He protects the vulnerable, covers scorn with glory, and lifts the head sunk in discouragement.

Or maybe you’re suffering angst over all the trouble in today’s world. How sorely we all need to remember that he’s the King of kings! As Jesus himself reminded churches facing worse than we experience, he holds us in his hand (Rev. 2:1), conquered death (v. 8), will speak decisive words of judgment (v. 12), and rules over the nations (v. 27). He’s got the whole world in his hands.

Greatest Need

What we most need, no matter our current circumstances, is a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God our Savior. The simple act of beginning our prayers with “God, you . . .” instead of “God, I . . .”—of talking to God about God before talking to him about ourselves—will recalibrate, refresh, and reinvigorate our prayers.

Like David in Psalm 23, we may find we needn’t offer any petition once we’ve talked with God about God. In rehearsing his beauty and majesty, we soon remember he’s the deepest longing hidden beneath every other desire. As Jonathan Edwards said,

The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased.

Talk with God about God, and you’ll quickly discover how true that is.


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