EARTH: Prayers Like Incense by Francine Rivers

Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature

Prayers Like Incense by Francine Rivers

From: Earth Psalms

When the Lamb took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8)

One Sunday in June, after church services, I went by Enchanting Sweet Peas in Sebastopol. It was tucked into a small lot next to Taco Bell – so hidden that even though I lived in Sebastopol, I didn’t know it existed until a friend told me about it. The small farm is open to the public only one day a year. When I arrived, there was already a gathering of people waiting with bated breath for the 11 a.m. opening. Many people come every year to buy seeds for new hybrid colors of sweet peas.

When the gates opened, we all swarmed in like a cloud of bees eager to drink in the blossoms.  While most lined up for seed order forms, I just buzzed from row to row, my nose tucked as close as possible to the sweet scent coming from pink, red, purple, white, lavender, coral, and multicolored blossoms, row after row of heady delight.  I kept thinking about how much Mom Edith, my mother-in-law, would have enjoyed this place.  Sweet peas were her favorite flower.  I’ve been told Dad Bill looked everywhere to find her a bouquet for their December 31 wedding but failed because sweet peas are a summer flower.

The sweet scent also reminded me of how the Bible makes a connection between our prayers and sweet incense.  We may not use incense much in our churches today, but it was a vital part of worship in Old Testament times, first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple.  The incense altar was to be placed just outside the curtain to the Holy of Holies – the sacred place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  The high priest, Aaron, was to offer incense on the altar twice a day, and the Lord promised to meet with him there (see Exodus 30:6).  Burning incense released a sweet aroma that was seen as an offering to God.

Our prayers are an act of worship because when we pray, we are acknowledging that God is there, that he is Lord, and that we need him.  God breathes in our prayers and smiles, answering in his time, in his way, and for our best.

Let’s offer him prayers of thanksgiving for the many blessings he has given us – including the beauty and sweet scent of summer sweet peas.

REFLECT

What role does prayer play in your life?  What does it mean to you that God values your prayers?

APPLY

Take some extra time for prayer this week.  Consider how you might make your prayer time more worshipful.  You might incorporate psalms or hymns, begin with a time of praise and thanksgiving, or reflect on God’s attributes.  Remember that our prayers are an act of worship, and God delights in them.

CONNECT WITH GOD

Heavenly Father, I am amazed that you value our prayers.  Help me to remember that prayer is an act of worship.  May I pray not only when I need something, but in times of gratitude and praise as well.  You are wise, compassionate, powerful, and just – and you care about my life.  I praise you!  Thank you for listening to my prayers.

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry!
Listen when I cry to you for help!
Accept my prayer as incense offered to you,
and my upraised hands as an evening offering.
(Psalm 141:1-2)

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