Christians have long debated the doctrine of God’s impassibility. Discussions around this topic are made more difficult because of how this doctrine has been differently defined and redefined. For our purposes, the doctrine of God’s impassibility is the belief that God isn’t affected by human circumstances, nor does he experience emotions like humans. Like I have already suggested, this definition isn’t going to satisfy everyone. Whatever one’s definition and belief, those who believe in impassibility must have satisfactory answers to how Isaiah can appeal to God’s compassion (com, with; passion, suffering) or even acknowledge God’s former compassion (see Isaiah 63:15, 63:7). For the person who believes in extreme impassibility, explaining Isaiah’s words, “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them” proves difficult (Isaiah 63:9).
God’s ways are certainly not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and even when the Bible speaks of God by ascribing emotions to the Lord, we must be careful not to project human emotions onto God. Still, whatever our doctrinal formulations, we must make sense of how prayers like Isaiah 64:1-12 move God on some level. Certainly Isaiah expects God to hear this prayer, often seen as a “prayer for revival”, and respond with favor, even the blessing of God’s very presence in space and time. Any doctrine that nullifies the Bible’s straightforward calls to action or the foundational truths which spur us to respond, like prayer and the fact God answers our prayers, must be reconsidered in light of the plain meaning of scripture.