Revelation 8:3-4 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
The is a much more ritualistic picture of prayer than we usually think of today. That said, virtually all of the images in Revelation are symbolic in various ways, so we need to be careful about patterning our lives around them. I think the point here is that our prayers are pleasing to God, a fitting sacrifice, much as incense, with which they are associated here. With a small child, the parent is happy that they talk to them, almost regardless of what the child is saying. God likes to hear us pray! In prayer we focus on Him, recognizing that we are inadequate in ourselves, and that is an important foundation to life as it should be. When we fail to pray, that means on at least some level that we think we can go it alone, or at least that we have to go it alone. Neither of those things is true! As Jesus said explicitly, apart from Him we can do nothing, (John 15:5) but the good news is, we don’t have to try to do it on our own, but rather live in concert with our Creator, who is omnipotent. Most depression comes from an inward focus that springs from missing those two great truths. If we feel we have to do it all ourselves, depression is the logical response! It is when we lift our eyes to Jesus and recognize His great love for us that we are liberated in many ways, from depression and many other traps of the devil. Prayer is a vital part of that. It’s no wonder that our Father is pleased when we do what we need to for walking in fellowship with Him!
I have experienced this from just about every human angle. In a self-centered funk, back in my college days, I genuinely wanted to die and was in the process of something that might well have succeeded in accomplishing that when the Lord spoke to me very simply: “Don’t do that.” I stopped, but my focus didn’t change very much very quickly. I didn’t have the sense to realize that God Himself had spoken to me because He cared, and He had plans for me! Talk about self-centered blindness! It took time, but thankfully God was more than patient with me, and my focus shifted. I will confess that even today, when I look at the state of the world around me and my own perceived inability to make a real impact on it all, I am tempted to depression, and I see that happening with many other like-minded people. The answer for us all is to pray, to recognize that yes, we are impotent against all the rot, but we know someone who is omnipotent in every sense, and that’s enough. We need to let go of the pride that says, “I’ve got to fix it.” God may or may not use us in the process, but fixing it is His ball game, and He can be trusted to get it done.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for telling me clearly, over 20 years ago now, that You aren’t happy with all the rot, and You’re not just letting it slide. Help me trust You enough to wait in patience for Your timing, rejoicing in You so as to be available for whatever part You have for me in Your plan, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!