We don’t often think about prayer being in worship to God, but that’s because we so easily forget the true meaning of worship which is an “expression of reverence”. Think of it this way: By praying to God, we are telling ourselves, and those around us, that God is Someone we need. Someone we desire. Someone we revere with great honor, and respect.
However, by God’s design, our prayers represent something even greater than the words we speak: they symbolize the aroma of incense around God’s throne.
Psalm 141:2 says: "May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering."
Our prayers represent the incense that was ordained by God to fill the temple and be both a sacrifice to God and also to set the mood for us. The temple is a holy, special place, where there is peace, calm, and God Himself. This is the environment our prayers are meant to create.
When God ordained how the incense would be prepared and taken care of on a daily basis, He said: "There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.” (Exodus 30:8)
Just as God’s holiness and presence never cease, neither was the incense to end. It was to represent the presence of God to the people.
And similar to incense, we have found this same calling in prayer.
Prayer is to fill our lives as our bodies are now the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). By having prayer fill our lives, we are not simply asking for God’s power to work, but we are filling our lives with the reality of God’s presence just as incense filled the temple.
Our prayers are meant to be ceaseless (1 Thessalonians 5:17), meaning that we are to have prayer be our 1st response to every situation in life - good, and bad. This embodies the entire purpose of God’s plan of redemption for all people: to have a personal, and constant relationship with God Himself.
In the days of the temple, only the priests had the privilege of lighting incense and giving sacrifices. However, now we are all made priests and have the privilege of praying directly to God and enjoying His presence. Even better than extending that privilege to all people, God has also allowed this to be done in all places! We see in Acts that disciples would praise and pray to God in all circumstances and locations - and God would be present.
This doesn’t mean that setting aside a special place or time is not useful. Although God has made Himself available in all places and times, we, as people, aren't well suited to enjoy meaningful prayer in all circumstances. It is wise for us, as people, to set aside the time, and place to pray to God, as well as have prayer be our first response in everyday life. We see this example in Acts when the it says that “They [Christians] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). “The prayers” refer to the standard daily times of prayer that the Jews had. There is nothing wrong with having time set aside to pray, this discipline is actually of great benefit to us.
So take this privilege of prayer and enjoy it! We get to speak to the God of all creation. The One Who created us, and knows everything about us. The God Who is above everything and yet still cares for us. The God Who not only knows our present, but desires to work in our lives today! Let’s not take this for granted, but enjoy it to the fullest.
For when we pray, we are giving reverence, honor, glory, and worship to God.