The title of this week’s blog is from the book by Eugene Peterson. The thought expresses what happens when “prayer reenters history with incalculable effects.” That is an intriguing thought isn’t it? We often think of God reentering into history and changing things but we don’t think much about prayer.
Let’s consider the following scene from the Revelation.
“And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” Rev. 8:4, NIV
We all know that God loves to hear from his children. As the architect of the tabernacle and the temple, He designed the altar of incense as an integral part of worship. In our church we don’t burn incense but the symbolism of its use is drawn from the tabernacle times as way to show that God hears the prayers of His people. In fact there was a set time of day when the priest would ignite the incense on the altar; it was when the worshippers would gather to pray. The message through the ritual is very clear “Your prayers are like a sweet bouquet to Me.”
As the father of three ‘mostly’ grown children there is not much I enjoy more than seeing their phone number in the caller id of the phone. It makes my heart jump and eagerness fills me to just stop and listen to them tell me how their lives are going. Their phone calls to me are like prayer is to God.
But God does more than just listen to our prayers; He takes them and shakes the earth.
“Then the angel took the censor and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it upon the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” Rev. 8:5, NIV
It may not be clear form the Revelation account what this “reverse thunder” is all about. So let’s look over in Acts chapter 4 for an illustration. Peter and John have been arrested in the early days of the Pentecost. They were taken before the Sanhedrin and faced the same men who plotted the crucifixion of Jesus. Their courage is impressive, and the court only strongly threatened them against any further mention of Jesus. When they returned safely to their fellow believers, the prayer of the congregation was for boldness in response to the world’s power.
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” Acts 4:29, NIV
So how did God answer their prayer?
“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31, NIV
He wanted them to know that He not only heard their prayers but that their prayers could shake the world. It was as if the incense is changed and thrown back to the earth as dynamite. God revealed to a persecuted and suffering church in Acts and again in Revelation: “There is power in prayer – power that can shape history and shake the earth.”
Does the world fear our prayer?
Father, Teach us to pray that we may cause The enemy to flee, that we his evil power may bind, and His prisoners to free. Amen.