Part 15 of a series through the book of Revelation
THE PRAYERS OF GOD’S PEOPLE
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel (8:3-4).
Incense is symbolic of prayer in the Bible. “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you” (Psalm 141:2). “...golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8).
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). The book of Rev-elation reveals that this prayer will be answered: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (11:15).
Prayer is not a waste of time.
In this vision we see the value of our prayers (“golden censer”). We also see that our prayers do reach God (“before the throne”). “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
THE GOD TO WHOM WE PRAY
Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings of lightning, and an earthquake (8:5).
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk (9:20).
The trumpet judgments reveal that it is not a waste of time to pray:
First, we pray to the God who is real.
Second, we pray to the God who hears.
Sometimes we wonder if God really hears our prayers. “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10).
Third, we pray to the God who is sovereign.
The censer that contained “the prayers of all the saints” (8:3) is filled with fire, which is thrown down to earth (8:5). The prayers of God’s people are answered in the form of judgments upon the earth. “The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God” (8:4). “The smoke from [Babylon] goes up forever and ever” (19:3).
PRAYER CHANGES THINGS
If God is sovereign, do our prayers matter?
God uses our prayers like He uses our preaching. (If we don’t evangelize, will the elect be saved?)
God is sovereign, but in His sovereign plan He has chosen to use the prayers of His people to accomplish His will.
How then should we pray? First, we should pray with aggressive faith, claiming the promises of God. Second, we should pray with submissive hearts, trusting the wisdom of God.