Let Our Prayers be like Incense
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
The Psalmist compares prayer to incense and lifting up of hands to evening sacrifice.
To get a better understanding of prayer we need to understand incense. Incense has two properties one is visual (smoke) and the other non-visual (aroma). The first is optional but the second isn't.
In the old days and even today incense is offered to God. As the incense burns it releases a sweet aroma along with smoke, this is very pleasing to whoever smells it. If the incense has no aroma but just only smoke then it does not please any person, but on the contrary it will offend the person. This is the same with our prayers. The audio part of our prayers is like the smoke and the feeling or emotions that go with it, are like the aroma. If we just speak words without meaning them in our prayers, then you are not offering incense but just smoke to God. As smoke again and again with offend any person so also it offends God. Even if we do not speak words, let our heart speak sweet aroma to the Lord. Let us lift up our hands as a sacrifice of praise; a late sacrifice for we did not lift our hearts to the Lord from the start.
Our own prayers can do wonderful things to our prayer life other than repeating a said prayer. In the start we all need it therefore Jesus gave us the prayer 'Our Father', but when He gave it He said 'This, then, is how you should pray' not 'what you should say'. He gave us a format of how we should pray not just a prayer to be by-hearted. A one 'Our Father' can be more powerful then ten 'Our Father's; if we mean what we say and do it.
Prayers written by others may have been good for them, but it is not necessary it will be good for us too. Our hearts are not the same nor are our conditions. How then can our prayers be same? Even if our aromas may be different but make sure it is there and is sweet. God does not need physical burning of incense but the incense that are offered in prayer.
[ Reference Scriptures ]
Matthew 6:5-15 [NIV]
5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 "This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.' 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
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