Are Your Prayers “Prepared as Incense”?
“May my prayer be prepared as incense before you.”—PSALM 141:2.
1, 2. The burning of incense symbolized what?
JEHOVAH GOD commanded his prophet Moses to have sacred incense prepared for use at Israel’s tabernacle of worship. The divine formula called for a fourfold aromatic mixture. (Exodus 30:34-38) It proved to be sweet-smelling indeed.
2 The Law covenant into which the nation of Israel was taken provided for the burning of incense daily. (Exodus 30:7, 8) Did the use of incense have special significance? Yes, for the psalmist sang: “May my prayer be prepared as incense before you [Jehovah God], the raising up of my palms as the evening grain offering.” (Psalm 141:2) In the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes those around God’s heavenly throne as having golden bowls full of incense. “And,” says the inspired account, “the incense means the prayers of the holy ones.” (Revelation 5:8) So, then, the burning of sweet-smelling incense symbolized acceptable prayers offered up by Jehovah’s servants both day and night.—1 Thessalonians 3:10; Hebrews 5:7.
3. What should help us to ‘prepare our prayers as incense before God’?
3 If our prayers are to be acceptable to God, we must pray to him in the name of Jesus Christ. (John 16:23, 24) But how can we improve the quality of our prayers? Well, giving consideration to some Scriptural examples should help us to prepare our prayers as incense before Jehovah.—Proverbs 15:8.
Offer Prayers in Faith
4. How is faith related to acceptable prayer?
4 If our prayers are to ascend to God as sweet-smelling incense, we must pray in faith. (Hebrews 11:6) When Christian elders find a spiritually sick person receptive to their Scriptural help, their “prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well.” (James 5:15) Prayers offered in faith are pleasing to our heavenly Father, and so is prayerful study of God’s Word. The psalmist manifested a fine attitude when he sang: “I shall raise my palms to your commandments that I have loved, and I will concern myself with your regulations. Teach me goodness, sensibleness and knowledge themselves, for in your commandments I have exercised faith.” (Psalm 119:48, 66) Let us ‘spread out our palms’ in humble prayer and exercise faith by complying with God’s commandments.
5. What should we do if we lack wisdom?
5 Suppose we lack the wisdom needed to deal with a trial. Perhaps we are not sure that a particular Bible prophecy is now being fulfilled. Instead of allowing this to destabilize us spiritually, let us pray for wisdom. (Galatians 5:7, 8; James 1:5-8) Of course, we cannot expect God to answer us in a spectacular way. We need to show the sincerity of our prayers by doing what he expects all of his people to do. It is necessary for us to engage in faith-building study of the Scriptures with the aid of publications provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47; Joshua 1:7, 8) We also need to advance in knowledge by participating in meetings of God’s people on a regular basis.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
6. (a) All of us should realize what about our day and the fulfillment of Bible prophecies? (b) In addition to praying for the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, what should we do?
6 Today, some Christians are pursuing interests and careers suggesting that they have lost awareness that we are now deep in “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) Fellow believers can well pray that such ones rekindle or bolster their faith in the Scriptural evidence that Christ’s presence began in 1914 when Jehovah installed him as heavenly King and that he is ruling in the midst of his enemies. (Psalm 110:1, 2; Matthew 24:3) All of us should realize that such foretold events as the destruction of false religion—“Babylon the Great”—the satanic attack of Gog of Magog upon Jehovah’s people, and the rescue of them by God the Almighty at the war of Armageddon can strike with startling suddenness and can all occur within a comparatively short period of time. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 18:1-5; Ezekiel 38:18-23) So let us pray for God’s help to stay awake spiritually. May all of us pray earnestly for the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, for his Kingdom to come, and for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Yes, may we continue to exercise faith and give evidence that our prayers are sincere. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Indeed, may all who love Jehovah seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness and have the greatest possible share in preaching the good news before the end comes.—Matthew 6:33; 24:14.
Praise and Thank Jehovah
7. What impresses you about David’s prayer recorded in part at 1 Chronicles 29:10-13?
7 An important way to ‘prepare our prayers as incense’ is by expressing heartfelt praise and gratitude to God. King David offered such a prayer when he and the people of Israel contributed toward the construction of Jehovah’s temple. David prayed: “Blessed may you be, O Jehovah the God of Israel our father, from time indefinite even to time indefinite. Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all. The riches and the glory are on account of you, and you are dominating everything; and in your hand there are power and mightiness, and in your hand is ability to make great and to give strength to all. And now, O our God, we are thanking you and praising your beauteous name.”—1 Chronicles 29:10-13.
8 What beautiful expressions of praise and thankfulness! Our prayers may not be as eloquent, but they can be just as heartfelt. The book of Psalms is filled with prayers of thanks and praise. Choice words of praise are found in Psalms 148 to 150. Gratitude to God is expressed in many psalms. “One thing I have asked from Jehovah,” sang David. “It is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) Let us act in harmony with such prayers by participating zealously in all the activities of Jehovah’s congregated throngs. (Psalm 26:12) Doing this and meditating on God’s Word daily will give us many reasons to approach Jehovah with heartfelt praise and gratitude.
Humbly Seek Jehovah’s Help
9. How did King Asa pray, and with what result?
9 If we are serving Jehovah wholeheartedly as his Witnesses, we can be sure that he hears our prayers for help. (Isaiah 43:10-12) Consider King Asa of Judah. The first 10 years of his 41-year reign (977-937 B.C.E.) were marked by peace. Then Judah was invaded by a million-man army under Zerah the Ethiopian. Though greatly outnumbered, Asa and his men went out to meet the invaders. Before the battle, however, Asa prayed fervently. He acknowledged Jehovah’s power to deliver. Pleading for help, the king said: “Upon you we do lean, and in your name we have come against this crowd. O Jehovah, you are our God. Do not let mortal man retain strength against you.” Total victory resulted as Jehovah saved Judah for the sake of his great name. (2 Chronicles 14:1-15) Whether God delivers us from a trial or strengthens us to endure it, there is no question that he hears our pleas for his assistance.
10. When we do not know how to deal with a certain crisis, how can the prayer of King Jehoshaphat prove helpful?
10 If we do not know how to deal with a certain crisis, we can be confident that Jehovah will hear our petitions for help. This was illustrated in the days of Judean King Jehoshaphat, whose 25-year reign began in 936 B.C.E. When Judah was threatened by the combined forces of Moab, Ammon, and the mountainous region of Seir, Jehoshaphat pleaded: “O our God, will you not execute judgment upon them? For in us there is no power before this large crowd that is coming against us; and we ourselves do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you.” Jehovah answered that humble prayer, fighting for Judah by striking the enemy ranks with confusion so that they slaughtered one another. As a result, the surrounding nations became fearful, and peace prevailed in Judah. (2 Chronicles 20:1-30) When we lack the wisdom needed to meet a crisis, like Jehoshaphat we can pray: ‘We do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you, Jehovah.’ The holy spirit may cause us to recall Scriptural points needed to solve the problem, or God may help us in a way that surpasses human reasoning.—Romans 8:26, 27.
11. What can we learn about prayer from Nehemiah’s actions in connection with Jerusalem’s wall?
11 We may have to persevere in prayer for God’s help. Nehemiah mourned, wept, fasted, and prayed for days about Jerusalem’s ruined wall and the desperate plight of Judah’s inhabitants. (Nehemiah 1:1-11) His prayers evidently ascended to God like sweet-smelling incense. One day Persian King Artaxerxes asked dejected Nehemiah: “What is this that you are seeking to secure?” “At once,” reports Nehemiah, “I prayed to the God of the heavens.” That short and silent prayer was answered, for Nehemiah was permitted to fulfill his heart’s desire by going to Jerusalem to rebuild its ruined wall.—Nehemiah 2:1-8.
Let Jesus Teach You How to Pray
12. In your own words, how would you summarize the main points of Jesus’ model prayer?
12 Of all the prayers recorded in the Scriptures, especially instructive is the model prayer presented as sweet-smelling incense by Jesus Christ. Says Luke’s Gospel: “A certain one of [Jesus’] disciples said to him: ‘Lord, teach us how to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.’ Then he said to them: ‘Whenever you pray, say, “Father, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Give us our bread for the day according to the day’s requirement. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone that is in debt to us; and do not bring us into temptation.”’” (Luke 11:1-4; Matthew 6:9-13) Let us consider this prayer, not meant to be recited but intended to serve as a guide.
13. How would you explain the significance of the words, “Father, let your name be sanctified”?
13 “Father, let your name be sanctified.” Addressing Jehovah as Father is a special privilege of his dedicated servants. As children readily approach a merciful father with any concern, we should spend time in regular dignified and reverential prayer to God. (Psalm 103:13, 14) Our prayers should reflect our concern about the sanctification of Jehovah’s name because we long to see it cleared of all the reproach that has been heaped upon it. Yes, we want Jehovah’s name to be set apart and held as holy, or sacred.—Psalm 5:11; 63:3, 4; 148:12, 13; Ezekiel 38:23.
14. What does it mean to pray, “Let your kingdom come”?
14 “Let your kingdom come.” The Kingdom is the rulership of Jehovah expressed through the heavenly Messianic government in the hands of his Son and Jesus’ associated “holy ones.” (Daniel 7:13, 14, 18, 27; Revelation 20:6) It will soon “come” against all earthly opposers of God’s sovereignty, removing them from the scene. (Daniel 2:44) Then the will of Jehovah will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10) What joy that will bring to all creatures loyally serving the Universal Sovereign!
15. Asking Jehovah for “our bread for the day” indicates what?
15 “Give us our bread for the day according to the day’s requirement.” Asking Jehovah for food “for the day” indicates that we do not request provisions in great abundance but only our daily needs. Though we trust in God to provide, we also work and use whatever proper means are available to us in order to obtain food and other necessities. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10) Of course, we should thank our heavenly Provider because his love, wisdom, and power are behind these provisions.—Acts 14:15-17.
16. How can we receive God’s forgiveness?
16 “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone that is in debt to us.” Since we are imperfect and sinful, we cannot fully measure up to Jehovah’s perfect standards. Hence, we need to pray for his forgiveness on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. But if we want the “Hearer of prayer” to apply the merit of that sacrifice to our sins, we must be repentant and willing to receive whatever discipline he gives us. (Psalm 65:2; Romans 5:8; 6:23; Hebrews 12:4-11) Moreover, we can expect to be forgiven by God only if we “have forgiven our debtors,” those sinning against us.—Matthew 6:12, 14, 15.
17. What is meant by the words, “Do not bring us into temptation”?
17 “Do not bring us into temptation.” The Bible sometimes says that Jehovah does things when he is merely permitting them. (Ruth 1:20, 21) God does not tempt us to commit sin. (James 1:13) Temptations to do evil originate with the Devil, our sinful flesh, and this world. Satan is the Tempter who tries to maneuver us into sinning against God. (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5) When we make the request, “Do not bring us into temptation,” we are asking God not to allow us to fail when we are tempted to disobey him. He can guide us so that we do not succumb and are not overreached by Satan, “the wicked one.”—Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Work in Harmony With Your Prayers
18. How can we work in harmony with our prayers for a happy marriage and family life?
18 Jesus’ model prayer covered principal points, but we can pray about any matter. For example, we may pray about our desire for a happy marriage. To maintain chastity until wedlock, we may pray for self-control. But then let us work in harmony with our prayers by avoiding immoral literature and entertainment. Let us also be determined to ‘marry only in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 7:39; Deuteronomy 7:3, 4) Once married, we will need to work in harmony with our prayers for happiness by applying God’s counsel. And if we have children, it is not enough to pray that they will be faithful servants of Jehovah. We must do all we can to inculcate God’s truths in their minds through Bible study and by regularly attending Christian meetings with them.—Deuteronomy 6:5-9; 31:12; Proverbs 22:6.
19. What should we do if we are praying about our ministry?
19 Are we praying for blessings in the ministry? Then let us act in harmony with such prayers by having a meaningful share in the Kingdom-preaching work. If we pray for opportunities to help others to get on the path to everlasting life, we need to keep good records of interested ones and be willing to fit the conducting of home Bible studies into our schedule. What if we desire to take up the full-time preaching work as a pioneer? Then let us take steps in harmony with our prayers by increasing our preaching activity and by sharing in the ministry with pioneers. Taking such steps will show that we are working in harmony with our prayers.
20. The next article will give consideration to what?
20 If we are serving Jehovah faithfully, we can be confident that he will answer our prayers that are in harmony with his will. (1 John 5:14, 15) Surely, beneficial points have been gleaned from an examination of some of the prayers recorded in the Bible. Our next article will consider other Scriptural guidelines for those desiring to ‘prepare their prayers as incense before Jehovah.’
How Would You Answer?
□ Why should we offer prayers in faith?
□ What role should praise and thanks play in our prayers?
□ Why can we confidently seek Jehovah’s help in prayer?
□ What are some main points of the model prayer?
□ How can we work in harmony with our prayers?
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Like King Jehoshaphat, at times we may need to pray: ‘We do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you, Jehovah’
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Do you pray in harmony with Jesus’ model prayer?