When Talk Is Sweet Incense

GodReflection: Talking with God.
This post will close the current series on Talking with God. The process of the past several weeks opened before me a greater awareness of the rich prayer heritage at our disposal as God’s children converse with the Holy. Through this journey in every direction I turn, it seems upon every page I read, and from every song I hear, I find prayer. May we never end to grow both in our desire and in our skill to converse with Father God, Jesus Son, and Holy Spirit.

Frequently, I use the coffee cup and the table as a metaphor for conversation time with The Holy that we call prayer. The scene is one of mutual intimacy that both God and humankind desire. This morning I want to explore another prayer picture. This one is found in Jesus’ Revelation given to the apostle John for all generations. In this portrait of prayer, God uses incense as his symbol.

The first covenant God made with Israel invites our ancestors to learn how to enter his presence in worship and communication with the use of incense. Incense is costly and special. Craftsmen place careful discretion into a precise content selection and its mixture. Its skilled preparation combines four spices and a touch of salt to produce an aroma only the Holy merits. God forbid the secret formula’s use for any other purpose. The sweet smell rises to the heavens. Only He is worthy of its delightful fragrance.

In Revelation incense is the chosen symbol to show us—his children—how he views our prayers. He sees them as a sweet aroma that pleases his senses. Let’s listen to John’s description.

When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each held a harp and gold bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8).

Three chapters later the imagery appears once more.

Another angel came and stood at the altar, and he held a gold bowl for burning incense. He was given a large amount of incense, to offer on behalf of the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense offered for the prayers of the saints rose up before God from the angel’s hand (Revelation 8:3-4).

With the dawn of a new day, we awake to Holy Gifts of Life and Sustenance. Those who accept the gracious gifts of Father, Son, and Spirit experience the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that grow as we talk with God. Unmerited goodness gifts our lives.

In parallel fashion, our new morning also presents destruction through headlines of war, death, violence, moral corruption, global warming, famine, greed, drug use, hate, fighting, obsession, anger, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, and deceit. Unimaginable suffering is beyond our control to repair.

Amid both realities, names of family, close friends, and acquaintances who confront loss, pain, grief, surprises of joy, gifts, and victories surface in our minds.

The canvas painted by the Holy in the Book of Revelation is one of the millions of Christians around our globe who mix the reality of the above three paragraphs along with faith and trust and place the mixture upon the alter as incense.  Like the glow of hot charcoal briquets, our prayers generate Holy Heat, and the ingredients start to simmer. As our prayer content starts to boil, sweet fragrant incense begins to rise toward the Throne Room of King Jesus. Can you picture the smile on the face of the Holy as twenty-four hours daily the aroma from this blanket of sweet prayer incense flows upward from every continent on planet earth?

Don’t we all want to participate in sending Holy Fragrance upward by talking with God? Don’t we want to increase the aroma produced by the sweet incense of Pray? Let’s keep the conversation alive.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection on When Talk Is Sweet Incense.




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