January 4th 2009

“Now when He had taken the scroll,

the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders

fell down before the Lamb,

each having a harp,

and golden bowls full of incense,

which are the prayers of the saints”

Revelation 5:8 NKJ 

Does God forget our prayers?

Sometimes, when I am down or irritable or both, I think God has not listened to or that He has forgotten or ignored my prayers. Is it that you pray today and don’t get an answer, and so you pray the same thing tomorrow, hoping but not sure that this time God will hear and respond?

The Old Testament prophets prayed consistently for the redemption of Israel but it did not happen. Are all those prayers now just forgotten words? Luke 2:36‑38 records the story of Anna, an eighty four year old widow, who had “prayed night and day” for redemption in Jerusalem but seemingly to no avail. She witnessed Simeon’s prophecy concerning the destiny of the child Jesus (34‑35) and this gave her grateful hope but still her prayers were not answered in her lifetime.

When John wrote the book of Revelation, persecution had come upon the church. These were dangerous and discouraging times. Things just seemed to go from bad to worse. Christians prayed for deliverance and no doubt there were individual stories of God’s intervention but the general tribulation continued. Were their prayers just shouting to the wind?

The church needed to be lifted up, to be encouraged to go on regardless of the daily setbacks. So God inspired John to reveal an important truth about prayers. Our prayers are precious to God. They don’t disappear into thin air as soon as they are breathed, but they are preserved and are a constant pleasant smelling aroma to God. With the fragrance of incense they surround God’s throne (Revelation 8:3). The Lamb of God, who Himself was not delivered from His suffering, has our prayers in His safe keeping. The Old and New Testament prayers for the redemption of Israel, our prayers for the redemption of humanity, are still active and will be answered in Christ Jesus.

I think of friends whose pain and suffering continue even though God’s throne is bombarded with our prayers. At times I have witnessed miracles in people’s lives, and often I see a peace descend and there is temporary relief and I know that is the Father’s responsive loving concern for them. I know of situations in which Christians are trapped and no deliverance comes. Even with myself there are deep personal things about which I pray and, although prayer draws me close to God and I am comforted by His presence, there is little change in circumstances. We all want to be delivered from the results of this sinful society and yet this present evil age goes on and on. Despite it all God hears. That is John’s message to the readership of Revelation.

So it is with all of us. So it is with you. When you pray, please understand God hears.  He is there. Your prayers and mine are with Jesus Christ. He looks after them. They are not forgotten. Rather they are remembered. They are like incense, presented in beautiful golden bowls before the throne of the Almighty.

Prayer

Father in Heaven, thank you that you hear my prayers. Thank you that they are not forgotten but that they are kept through the Spirit by your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you that they are presented to you by Him, that through Him our thoughts and concerns are ever before your throne.

Amen.

Study by James Henderson

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