Permeating God's Presence

Rev. 5:8 - "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."

Have you ever sat around a crackling campfire at night, enjoying the flickering light and radiating warmth? Maybe you cooked your meal on the coals, or roasted marshmallows for s'mores. Perhaps it had rained and you were using the fire to dry your shoes and clothing. The next morning you packed everything up and headed home, and when you walked in the door someone commented that you smelled like fire! The smell of the campfire had permeated your clothing and hair so that everyone knew where you had been and what you had been doing. In Revelation John described something that permeated God's presence like the scent of burning incense.

In Revelation 4 & 5 John was given the privilege of viewing the splendor and activity around God in his glory as he sat on his throne. John also saw quick-moving, all-seeing heavenly creatures, and 24 enthroned leaders, all focused on God and singing his praises. He saw that God was holding a sealed message in his right hand. Initially no one was able to open it, but finally one stepped forward who was worthy to reveal the message, and all of the attention and praise in the room shifted from God to the Lamb. When all the beings in heaven fell down to sing the praises of the Lamb, John saw that they held in their hands bowls of incense which contained the prayers of the saints, (this image is developed further in Rev. 8:3-4). After reading this text with some friends last night, a couple of things stood out to us.

1. Our prayers reach God in all his glory!

The imagery of God's throne room was awesome! Trying to imagine the noise, action and brilliance surrounding God's presence was encouraging! As one friend said, "The image of Christ in chapter 1 and of God on his throne in chapters 4 and 5 gives me a better perspective on my concerns and worries." Amen!

But then, John saw that the prayers of God's people had reached our brilliant God in his amazing throne room in the form of burning incense. Our prayers were there! People may wonder if God is accessible or if he cares about them. However, what this verse teaches is that when God's people speak to him, he listens. How amazing is that?

2. Our prayers permeate his presence!

Not only do our prayers reach him, but just like the scent of a campfire clings to you the next day, our prayers permeate his presence and are constantly with him.

Maybe it would be helpful to think about our prayers permeating God's presence in this way. Within the pages of my daily Bible you will find a handful of notes, poems, etc. that have been given to me by loved ones. I carry them everywhere I go. Every time I come across them as I turn the pages of my Bible they remind me of those who gave them to me. The thoughts, well wishes and written prayers of those people are constantly with me. I know people who put notes like that in their wallets, or inscribe special sentiments on in the inside of their wedding ring. Perhaps the concept behind the prayers of God's people being like burning incense in God's throne room is like that. It is one way of revealing that every prayerful communication from his children, every expression of thanksgiving, every grief shared or supplication sought is close to his heart because he cares for us.

3. Our prayers bring him joy!

Everyone's sense of smell is a little different. Maybe the smell of a campfire isn't pleasant to you. Maybe your favorite smells are associated with the holidays and the baking that goes on. Perhaps it's the smell of you morning coffee. Maybe the smell of a loved one's jacket or blanket. The point is, every has a favorite scent that pleases them.

The prayers of the saints in God's throne room ascend like burning incense. The point is they are pleasing to God! Because of his great love for us, it brings him joy every time we communicate with him, no matter what the topic may be. Like a parent whose child is away at college for the first time, every email, text and phone call from him is precious to you and brings you great joy when you receive those updates. Receiving and hearing our prayers brings God brings God joy.

If you ever doubted that God heard or cared about what you communicate to him, remember Revelation 5:8. The prayers of God's people reach him on his throne and permeate his presence like burning incense! He is overjoyed every time he hears from us. What an amazing God we serve!

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How does Rev. 5:8 affect your faith in God? If God cares that much about hearing from his children, what does this text motivate you to improve about your prayer life?

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