Psalm 141:1-2 (ESV) O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
In the Tabernacle and then the Temple, the high priest was tasked with burning incense. Incense is a gum, spice or other substance that is burned for its sweet smell it produces. Incense comes from the Latin incensus or set on fire. Incense refers to the substance consumed and burned not the aroma emitted. The high priest would offer incense while performing morning and evening prayers in the Presence of the Lord symbolic of the prayers of the people to God. Prayer is the incense of our life. It is to be sweet smelling and sacrificial. Pouring our hearts out to the Lord in reverence of who He is.
Give ear to my voice when I call to you!
God hears every word spoken. The conversations among each other. The secret whispers in the dark. The cries of His Children never uttered past thought. He is interested in us. He longs to live in intimacy with us. Too often our approach to the Lord is like the local fast food drive-thru, speeding up the window, barking our requests in detail into the speaker, pulling around to the window impatiently, and grabbing our food then speeding off. God forbid the poor worker gets our order wrong or it is delayed at which time it is our duty to angrily give them a piece of our mind. Oh, I know what you are thinking. I would never treat God like that. But I ask you to carefully consider your prayer life today as I do mine. To examine your heart for the content of godly communication in your life. How do you approach the Presence of God? Do you enter in with thanksgiving and praise or barging in to demand what’s ours? Is it an ongoing conversation between friends and lovers or a clandestine affair of convenience? God hears every word that is spoken, what is He hearing from you? What am I a saying to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on a daily basis? “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,”
Isaiah 56:6-8 (ESV) “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Are my prayers incense to the Lord? In Isaiah, an image of prayer arises that may change one’s perception of prayer altogether. Good, I hope so. Prayer has not lost its power but people have forgotten its purpose. By joining ourselves to the Lord, it becomes our privilege to minister to Him, to love His Name, to be His Servant, and to hold tightly to the covenant given to us in our relationship with Jesus Christ. He promises His People to be brought to “my holy mountain” or into His Presence. To make them joyful in my house of prayer. The old time church believed in travailing before the Lord and there are times and seasons that may elicit such prayers. However, the true power and potential of our prayers come when our confidence in the Lord allows us to praise His Name and live in His Presence apart from the distractions of need or want knowing and believing God will do exactly what He has promised to do. These are the prayers that silence worry, fear, anxiety and doubt. Power packed petitions that silence the enemy in the Greatness of our God. The Lord waits for “the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Psalm 139:16 (ESV) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Romans 8:28 (ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Do you believe these verses are true? Is this the potential for your life in Jesus Christ? Can I ask you to consider your prayer life? If this is the Truth concerning your life, what is there to ask for? God has plans for our welfare never to be in distress. He has given us a future and hope through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord promises that when you call on His Name, come into His Presence and pray that He will hear you. When you seek Him, you will find Him. Are you seeking the Lord wholeheartedly? Only you know the answer to that. Truly believing and trusting the Lord takes our faith and plants it in His Word, relying on His Wisdom, and walks in confident confidence not in our condition or circumstances but the constancy of His Great Love. God doesn’t lie or change His Mind. Once His Word is released, it cannot come back to Him until it accomplishes exactly what He sent it forth to do. It tells us in Psalm 139 that every day of our life is prerecorded and therefore provided for by God. We do not lack any good thing because He is a Good and Gracious Father. And finally, trusting the Lord includes those days when He is still working to work all things together for our good and His Glory. What does my prayer life sound like on those days? Is it an incense filled with sweet praise? Faith and confident hope changes the consistency and content of our prayers changing them from desperate cries for help to desperate cries for more of Him.
“The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!”
James 5:12-16 (ESV) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Prayer and praise are partners. They go together. Our prayer must be infused with praise to become powerful. Yes, there will be times when our human weakness needs assistance. However, the majority of our prayer time should be incense on the altar of God – day and night, night and day – let incense arise. In Exodus 30:7-8, there is a direct command for the priest to enter the Presence of God each morning and evening with incense. This represents prayers and praise to the Lord perpetually. Is your prayer life consistent? Day and night and night and day. What is the content? Is it incense to the Lord? Does it give off a sweet aroma of faith mixed with confident hope emitting praise and honor and glory to God? Or does it stink of doubt and fear crying out for what is already given? Exodus 30:37 makes it clear that prayer is not about me and what I want but the Lord and who He is. The vessels on the altar of God took human form (2 Timothy 2:21) when the Spirit of the Living God came to live in us and make us His Temples (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
My righteousness is not me, but Christ who is in me. Every good thing in my life is straight from God. Nothing good lives in me apart from the Lord. When I come to Him and communicate with the Lord, it is an opportunity to express my faith in His Power and confidence in His Plan. Am I wasting my time whining and complaining or do I spend it wisely worshipping the Lord? I can only evaluate my own time spent in the Presence of God. God is able. His Power is not in any way lessened by my ability to believe but when I do by chance get it right and plant my faith in His Power, watch out! The prayer of a righteous man or woman is powerful. My righteousness is Christ alone. If this is what I believe, it changes my prayer time. To fully invest our time and energy in praising Jesus even in our prayer time changes the content of our life. There is power in prayer, I have seen its wonderworking power firsthand. Imagine the change in the atmosphere if God’s People stopping begging for bread and began singing the praises of an abundant God. The Light of His Love would burn brightly from our passion. The incense of praise overpowering the stench of doubt. Revival would come as God rushed in to get a closer whiff of His People’s Praise. The drawing in of His Mighty Breath would pull us closer and deeper than ever before. Lord, set us on fire with passion for who You are. Make the words of our mouth and mediation of our heart agree and pour out praise. May the incense of our prayer life be praise and adoration formed from faith and trust in You!
2 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.