The story of the prodigal son is arguably Jesus’ most famous parable. After squandering his inheritance, the younger son in the parable returns home in shame and confesses, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). Although the prodigal felt unworthy to be called a son, he was not too ashamed to say “Father.”
In Isaiah 64, God’s people admit that their prayers do not deserve to be heard. Even so, they remember the way God has delivered His people in the past: “You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?” Unrighteousness means more than doing the wrong kinds of things. It is not just one or many things we do, it is a condition. The presence of sin defiles even our best actions. Consequently, verse 6 laments, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
If we are unrighteous, how can we pray? Do we deserve to be heard by a holy God? According to verses 8–9, we should come to God as our Father: “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.” Notice that this appeal is based on a relationship, not performance. God forgives because He loves us, not because we’ve earned it.
>> Do you worry about things you’ve done? Do you wonder how God will respond if you turn to Him? Jesus’ parable provides the answer: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him” (Luke 15:20).
These two things are true: that we are not worthy to approach You, and yet You invite us to approach. Your grace emboldens us to call You “Father” and to embrace Your mercy and forgiveness. Praise Your holy name!