Archive for September, 2019

by Lynn Turner

Years ago I was given a book by Richard Foster called Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. He begins the book by saying, “Prayer ushers us into the Holy of Holies where we bow before the deepest mysteries of the faith.”

callout-prayer copyI was captured! I admitted that there was a lot about prayer that I did not understand. I was a novice at praying. My prayer life was a one-sided relationship, where I did most of the talking,  primarily asking God for things: for myself, on behalf of those I loved or for direction in making important decisions. I mostly was asking God for things that would make my life easier and better. While I believed that God wanted good things for my life, I was neglecting what God wanted from me.

Foster goes on to say, “Real prayer is about a love relationship, an enduring, continuing, growing love relationship with the God of the Universe.”

It has taken me many years to understand this concept of prayer.

incense 300pxIt likely was Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen that opened my eyes to the kind of relationship that God wants to have with me. I realized that prayer is a loving relationship centered on trust. Trusting my deepest heartaches, my greatest joys to the one who knows me through and through, who loves spending time with me and who calls me his “Beloved.” Nouwen says, “Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert.”

This kind of prayer is exhilarating. It is exhausting. It is Holy Ground.

In recent days, I was given an image of prayer that I have never seen in Scripture. It came from writer Mark Buchannan in his book Your God is too Safe.

The vision in the Revelation of John, the book of Revelation chapter 5, is where John describes the worship in heaven, worshipping at the feet of Jesus. In the inner circle, closest to the throne are twenty-four elders and four living creatures. The Lamb, the worthy one, takes the scroll with seven seals. Here is what John sees in verse 8: “When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (italics added)

Buchannan says, “It is a stunning image…prayer as incense. I find it deeply consoling that our prayers are gathered as fragrance in the presence of God, that my prayers this morning for my wife and children, my church, my neighbors, mingle now with the purity and intensity of heaven’s worship.”

I don’t know about you, but I have never thought about my prayers as incense in worship. I have never thought about all the prayers I have prayed and prayers of all the saints gathered as a fragrance to Almighty God in an act of worship.

This image changes the way I view my praying. It encourages me that as I spend time with my loving God in prayer, those prayers linger on as a fragrance for eternity in the very heart of God.

May prayer become for you, as it has for me, more than a time of talking and asking; may it become a time for being and abiding, for trusting in His unfailing love. May it become sweet incense lifted and pleasing to God.

Editor’s note:
The Prayer Ministry of Richmond’s First Baptist Church offers a prayer retreat each fall. Please visit fbcrichmond.org/prayer for more information about A Day of Holy Rest and Soul Care, September 28, 2019.

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