There are lots of Bible verses and passages about prayer—and folks a lot smarter than me have written books and commentaries on the subject—but one verse has held my attention for a number of years. Isaiah opens his book with seventeen verses of grievous discontent on God’s part and then records this statement by God: “Come now! Let us reason together” (Is. 1:18a).
Based upon the first seventeen verses of the book, there’s every reason for God to distance Himself and no reason for Him to engage. This divine invitation to discuss things is not even a whole verse. It’s a mere 18 verses into a 66-chapter-long tome of holy writ dealing with lots of serious stuff. “Come here! Let’s talk,” He says. And furthermore, as if this translation isn’t staggering enough, the word “reason” can equally be translated “dispute.”
It seems to me that good parents understand this concept somewhat. For example, one of their darlings runs amok, and chases a series of bad decisions with another and another. They create havoc and bring disarray to the family. Their just due would be banishment, and some form of time away might follow, but only after the parent says, “Hey buddy (or princess)! Let’s sit down and discuss this.”
Like the parent needs to be enlightened by their eight-year old.
Like the child is going to offer a dispute that justifies the havoc they’ve created.
Like the parent has either time in their day or place in their brain for childish inanities.
Yet, the good parent invites—frequently orders—that a summit occur for two reasons: a) so the child is clearly respected and their perspective validated, and b) for the relational engagement.
Everything else is secondary to respect and relationship.
This still leaves the mystery of prayer mysterious. What's the point? That's next.