(3) And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
In John’s vision, we see an angel being given a bowl of incense which was to be offered with the prayers of the people of God. This is not the only place in the Bible where incense and the prayers of the saints is connected. Symbolically, this is teaching us that the prayers are pleasing and accepted by God and therefore, He will answer the prayers placed before Him.
To better understand this Revelation passage, we can to look at Psalm 141:1-2. In this text, we can see more clearly why prayer and incense are linked so closely…
“A Psalm of David. LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
David, in a position of great need, approaches the Lord desiring for the Lord to quickly hear his prayers and intervene on his behalf.
In that context, he makes two very important statements:
1. “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense”
Incense puts forth a very pleasing and acceptable aroma.
David is saying “Let my prayer be found acceptable and pleasing in your sight”.
2. “and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice”
The evening sacrifice (Exo 29:39) was a sacrifice that was offered in recognition of needed forgiveness for the sins committed that day.
David is saying “Based upon your gracious forgiveness of my sins, please accept my outward declaration of need (lifting up of hands), strengthen me, and graciously act on my behalf
Folks, as we approach the Lord in prayer, the principles taught in this text are so very important for us to remember and apply:
1. As we pray, do we recognize our inability and our reliance upon His gracious intervention to meet our needs?
This is the basic idea of the raising of our hands to Him. It is an acknowledgment of our great need of Him, much like a baby who raises its hands to its mother to be picked up and held.
2. As we pray, do we recognize the need to repent of known sin and seek His foregiveness?
Sin hinders our relationship with the Lord. It is only with cleansed hearts that we can expect the Lord to hear us and work on our behalf.
3. As we pray, are we concerned about being in submission to His will?
A heart submitted to His will is the aroma that pleases the Lord as we present our requests to Him.
May we all think on these things today and find encouragement and comfort for our hearts!
For an in depth look at these sections of the Revelation