Prayer changes things on earth. Prayer brings God’s presence near. Prayer moves God’s plan along. Prayer brings the judgments that have the power to awaken the spiritually dead. Prayer is the one thing you and I must not neglect.
Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:5, ESV)
The book of Revelation communicates God’s truth to us via pictures. The pictures are drawn from the symbolism of the Old Testament. The symbols had meaning to the original recipients in the first century. Because they communicate timeless truths, the symbols also have meaning to believers living in our world today.
Revelation gives us many significant images of the church. In Revelation 8, we see the church as the praying assembly of God’s people, whose prayers have a dramatic impact on what is happening on earth. When we look at the chaos and division in our world today, it is easy to become overwhelmed. The problems seem too great. The church seems too insignificant. Revelation shows us another perspective. In Christ, the church as it exists in the world today has a power at its disposal that is greater than any force at work in the world. We need to be reminded of what God does through the prayers of His people.
As the vision of Revelation unfolds in chapter 8, we move from the cycle of seven seals to the cycle of seven trumpets. John sees a great angel before the altar with a golden censer. The angel has incense to offer on the golden altar before the throne of God (v. 3). The vision uses the imagery of the tabernacle and temple. The angel is like the priest who offered incense on the golden altar morning and evening each day. The Bible ties this incense to the prayers of God’s people. For example, Zacharias was offering incense in the temple while the people prayed outside in Luke 1, and Peter and John went up to the temple at the “hour of prayer” in Acts 3. The fragrant smoke of the burning incense rising up in a cloud was a picture of the prayers of God’s people going up before Him. Revelation 8:4 tells us that the “smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints rose before God from the hand of the angel” (ESV).