“God, thank you for my life and my family and my little puppy. I ask that you protect us and keep loving us. Also, can you help me to not have nightmares tonight? Amen.”
As a little girl of faith, I prayed this prayer every night. I didn’t venture outside these three lines, but that didn’t stop me from believing that God was listening. While I grew into my teenage years, I began to write out my prayers in journals. The Psalms inspired a poetic voice that lifted up requests and gratitude expressed on paper. Even still, I followed a pattern that “looked right”. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I acknowledged how much I need God’s Spirit in my prayers.
One summer, I had my heart broken by a failed relationship. I couldn’t stop myself from feeling the sting of my heart. Even in mundane conversations my mind would wander, and suddenly I would feel tears welling up in my eyes. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I needed Jesus to console my heart (Psalms 4:1). I only had one friend that knew the condition I was in, and I confessed to her daily how hard it was to maintain joy. She was the tool God used to transform my understanding of unceasing prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). She preached to me the gift of constant thankfulness, while leaning into God with a posture of desperate need for His Spirit. She prayed with fervency, and her prayers were answered with bewildering abundance. She introduced the concept of Romans 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Prayer is communication with God the Father made possible by Jesus Christ and the presence of his Holy Spirit. It’s a powerful exchange of humanity and divinity, but even more, it’s the offering of verbally declaring our dependence on God. Our words are not lost in the atmosphere, but delivered at the foot of God’s throne with a scent of sweet incense (Psalm 141:2).
In order for the smell of incense to be released it has to be burned with fire. Throughout scripture, God reveals himself with fire. A few examples can be found in Numbers 16, Exodus 13, 2 Thessalonians 5, 2 Kings 1 along with numerous other places. It’s not a coincidence that incense is the visual representation of prayer being delivered to the Lord. Our offering is not set ablaze by forced fervency; our offering is set ablaze by our calling on God’s presence.
Take a look at Elijah in 1 Kings 18:36,
“36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
Elijah the prophet humbly acknowledges God’s presence by speaking aloud who God is. He positions Himself alongside the Father by proclaiming his servanthood. He also mentions his historic faith in God’s word. Lastly, Elijah petitions for the Lord’s presence (in the form of fire) to be revealed for the glory of God’s faithfulness to people. Immediately, the fire falls and consumes Elijah’s offering causing the witnesses’ to bow their faces low and worship this God.
Our prayers must invite the presence of God into our lives, or else we’re asking in vain. If our prayers are an offering of incense lifted to God’s throne, then we have to request that He ignites them with his fire. Pray with everything, and lay down your requests as an offering. Jesus graciously lived, died and rose again so that we could communicate with the Lord ourselves. If we began trusting this process, then I believe God would do immeasurably more (Ephesians 3:20). I believe our prayer lives would transform if we asked the Spirit to pray over us (Romans 8:26) while we entreat the throne. It may not look any different than my childhood three- liner, but the trust in God’s presence lifts praise and glory to His faithfulness. Model Elijah, as his request saved the lives of everyone watching him.
View my article where it was originally posted, on the Initiative Website.