by Kathy Lay
This Week's Verse: Revelation 5:8, "And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."(NIV, emphasis mine)
I was reading in Revelation 4 about the infinite praise taking place in heaven. It blew me away on several levels that this praise was, is, and is to come. It's going on right now. When we offer our own praises, we're simply joining a chorus already in progress around the throne of God.
And then something else struck me. Each of the 24 elders sitting around the throne is holding a golden bowl of incense. What's the incense? Our prayers! A scent pleasing to the Lord!
If you've ever felt "disconnected" in your prayer life, there might be an issue God wants you to address. Maybe you have some unrepented sin. Maybe you need to humble yourself. Maybe you just flat out aren't praying the things God would have you pray. But if you've given everything to the Lord in repentance and humility and are praying His will and still wonder if it's making a difference, know this: Your prayers are precious in heaven.
Consider the following scene: Up to this point in Revelation we see the beings, the creatures, the surroundings in heaven and there is quite a commotion. The praises are constantly being sung, the elders are falling prostrate before the throne, and the scroll is being revealed. And then suddenly, it all stops!
"When the Lamb broke the seventh seal on the scroll, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour. I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets. Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out" (Rev. 8:1-4, NLT).
The trumpets were present, but silent. The heavenly hosts were watching in anticipation, but uncharacterically quiet. I don't know if it's possible to hear footsteps in heaven (you know, with the clouds for a floor and all!) but I imagine the angel carrying the incense burner echoing them as he makes his way to the alter. All of heaven stops and holds its breath in anticiption.
The continual praise of the Lord stops for one thing--the prayers of the righteous. That's how important your prayers are to God.
God, in this season of celebrating how precious You are to us, thank you for the reminder of how precious we are to You. Thank You for holding our communication with You in such high regard that You quiet all of heaven for it to be offered up to You.
Read Revelation 4, 7, & 8:1-5 from a few different translations and really soak in the vivid scene. Notice that John writes about his vision in past tense (because he's telling about a vision he had seen) but presents some elements in the present tense to convey that these events are occuring in the present. Praise and thank God as you visualize that at that very minute, heaven's stopping to hear your heartfelt prayer offering.
2 Chronicles 6:39, "then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you."(NIV)
Daniel 10:12, "Then he said, 'Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer'."(NLT)