"Let my prayer be set before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." Ps. 141:2
This is an incredible comparison of prayer to incense made by King David. Yet, in order to fully grasp this comparison, one must have some understanding of its significance.
Let us begin. Historically incense was something used at the tabernacle of the Lord (also at the temple, once it was constructed). In particular, it was used at the front of the veil that separated the main temple area from the "Holy of Holies", God's inner most sanctum. The people who took charge of the incense were a special people; they were picked-out by God from a certain lineage and appointed as priests. Additionally, there was a secondary group of people who were also picked-out by God to assist the priests. Together they addressed the work of sacrifices and offerings, but also their proper presentation before the altar of God. Additionally, they were to set incense at the start of the day (morning) and close of the day (evening) at the front of the veil. With some sacrifices, incense was also used in the "Holy of Holies". The fragrance was said to arise towards Heaven and God considered it a "sweet aroma" (Num. 5:13).
At the death of Christ Jesus, the veil that divided the temple from the "Holy of Holies" was torn in two (Mat. 27:51; Luke 23:4); there was no more division between God and His chosen people (Rom. 8:28-29). The people of God, through belief in Christ Jesus, could call-out directly to God! On that day, Christ Jesus (God's Son) became the ultimate sacrifice of all time, carrying the sins of all mankind (*Eph. 5:2; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 3:8; 1 Jn. 2:1-2), and this was pleasing to God the Father (Jn. 8:29).
Although there is no more veil, there is still a tabernacle (temple) and a priest that offers a sacrifice or offering up to God. For God's people, the temple is their body, it is the living space of the Holy Spirit (1 Co. 3:16-17; 6:19-20). The priest is the person's unique soul. They are now considered a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:4-6; 9-10), being able to offer a sacrifice or offering of praise, worship, and petitions in the form of song, service, as well as prayer. The Holy Spirit serves the role of abiding in us and bringing out the inner most issues from our hearts and up towards Christ Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27). Christ Jesus then advocates for them with God the Father (1 Jn. 2:1).
God delights in being in active communication with His people. He is attentive and actively listening (2 Chron. 33:12-13; Ps. 34:4; 66:19-20) and receiving their praise and worship of Him; but also their petitions (1Jn 5:15). He orchestrates a response, which is in-line with His will (1 Jn 5:14-15) for the life of the petitioner.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, it is my heart's desire to once again present unto God the Father prayers that are worthy to flow up to Heaven as incense and be received by Him as a "sweet aroma". Lord, I also desire to witness more incense-smoke arise from amongst people who pray on their own or with others in a group. For it is written, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Mat. 18:20). How much more should not our prayers arise unto God the Father! Amen.
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R. A. Gómez