And as He took the scroll, the twenty-four Elders fell down before the Lamb, each with a harp and golden vials filled with incense — the prayers of God’s people! Revelation 5:8
Then another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; and a great quantity of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people, to offer upon the golden altar before the throne. And the perfume of the incense mixed with prayers ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out. Then the angel filled the censer with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed and rumbled, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake. Then the seven angels with the the seven trumpets prepared to blow their mighty blasts. Revelation 8:3-6
As we turn to the book of Revelation in these times, we all need to be reminded of a classic observation on this final book of the Old Testament made by Dr. Jack W. Hayford in his new work, E Quake, “the book of Revelation will never make sense as a collection of prophecies until it is approached as a handbook on worship!” (p. 11).
In Revelation Five, John saw “in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” While the search was on for someone “worthy” to open the scroll, John wept much, “because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and to break its seven seals.” (v. 4).
The scroll symbolizes the will of God for the complete sweep of human history, His perfect plan of redemption, healing and restoration of the human race to its true destiny, His purpose for all of creation as revealed in the birth, life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is why no one was found worthy to open the scroll and break its seals. But finally, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, “stood a Lamb as though it had been slain (One who had the marks of the cross, having suffered for sin, having removed the curse of Satan and having triumphed forever over evil). The arrival of the Lamb to execute the will of God in judgment on the earth and eviction of all sin and darkness in the opening of the scroll and the breaking of the seven seals reminds us that Jesus Christ is the One and Only Person in all the human race whom God has appointed Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and Judge (Acts 17:31) and Perpetual Ruler (Isa. 9:6-7; Col. 1:13-20).
We need at this time to observe carefully what the twenty-four elders were holding as they worshiped the Lamb who was about to break the seals on the scroll: they had harps and bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (v. 8). Harps are instruments of worship, of healing, of freedom, of power, of praise, of deliverance. In the early days of their relationship, when a distressing spirit would come upon King Saul, David would play the harp and the distressing spirit would depart from him (I Sam. 16:23). So today, praise and prayer are mighty forces. Our praises must precede the actions of the Lamb. When we are filled with praise, the Lord goes into action, and it’s only a matter of time before the will and purposes of God are recovered in our lives, in our ministries, in our churches, in our families and in our world.
Let us note that at the very outset of the judgment process, before the breaking of the first seal, “the golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” are brought forth as a critical focus for the Lamb (5:8). Then comes a solemn pause at the opening of the seventh seal — “silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Rev. 8:1). This breathtaking apprehension is expressed as a dreadful silence before the apocalyptic finale. All celestial beings are hushed in solemn respect of the powerful prayers of the saints who have prayed the will of God to pass across the ages of history, as the Just One Himself pauses to decide to what extent such intercession must prevail and determine the outcome of all things. Notice that the angel “was given much incense, that he would offer it with the prayers of all the saints… The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand” (8:3-4). Wesley Duewel sees this “fragrant incense” as the intercessions of Christ. He writes, “His fragrant intercession is added to the prayers of God’s children for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth. Fire from the altar, symbolic of the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, is added to the combined prayers of Jesus and His saints, and all is poured out upon the earth. Immediately there follows the seven trumpets as outlined in the subsequent chapters of Revelation. These awesome demonstrations of God’s power work dramatically to speed the accomplishment of God’s will on earth and the total defeat of Satan “(Touch The World through Prayer, pp. 223-224).
What is the nature of those prayers that are received and stored in heaven, which have such powerful effects on the outcome of all things? How do they differ from the prayers that never make their way into the eternal records? They are prayers prayed in the revelation and energy and boldness of the Holy Spirit. They are prayers prayed in the will of God and for His glory. They are Kingdom-advancing prayers. The apostle James wrote about prayers that are not answered, “because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (4:3). Jesus rebuked Peter, James and John for prayers that were never prayed due to their slumbering spirit (Mark 14:32-39).
Jesus taught that the secret to a successful prayer life lies in one’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Christians who are cleansed and filled with the Spirit can learn to “pray in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18; Jude 20) — they are enlightened so that they can pray according to the will of God, they are energized so that they do not faint, and they are emboldened in faith so that they will not be denied. Only those who pray in the power of the Holy Spirit can prevail in prayer. And it is in prevailing prayer that we realize our purpose for being. Through prevailing prayer we advance the Kingdom of God on earth and lay up priceless treasures in the world to come.
Without a doubt, we are now entering into one of the greatest prayer awakenings in the history of the Church. I’ve never known so many believers to say, “I know that God has called me to devote myself to prayer!” It should become the concern of each one of us that we personally hear the Spirit’s call to prayer with an ear that is tuned by Him, with a heart that is purified by Him. Otherwise we will never understand that the call to prevailing prayer is an invitation by the Spirit to come and share the heart of the Father and the Son. It is a call to fulfil our destiny through prayer. God would have us see that Spirit-anointed prayer is His way of bringing about His will in the Church and in the world, and in our personal lives. The Holy Spirit yearns to possess us more completely in order that He might pray through us more powerfully.
I beg each one of us to surrender to this growing urge in our hearts to learn more about the will of God through Spirit-anointed prayer. If we are where I think we are in the lateness of time, then the Spirit of prayer and supplication is about to be poured out on the Church of Jesus Christ on an unprecedented scale. Churches that participate in the Great Awakening will be turned into “Houses of Prayer.” Prayer Centers will spring up in every major city in the world. And there people will pray “day and night” (perpetually) as they are energized and inspired and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Imagine a hundred thousand Christians in a hundred thousand cities around the world praying day and night at the same time! Such a phenomenal movement alone will turn the tide of evil and bring back the King to destroy the works of darkness and enthrone the Lamb Who is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!