The Importance of Prayer[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEhHQbGWLGw]
Exodus 37:25-29 (English Standard Version)
25(A) He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. Its length was a cubit, and its breadth was a cubit. It was square, and two cubits was its height. Its horns were of one piece with it. 26He overlaid it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And he made a molding of gold around it, 27and made two rings of gold on it under its molding, on two opposite sides of it, as holders for the poles with which to carry it. 28And he made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. 29(B) He made the holy anointing oil also, and the(C) pure fragrant incense, blended as by the perfumer.
Revelation 8:3-4 (English Standard Version)
3And another angel came and stood(A) at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with(B) the prayers of all the saints on(C) the golden altar before the throne,4and(D) the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
I. How was the Altar of Incense to be built?
a. Made of Acacia wood.
The acacia wood of which the Sanctuary was made has in Hebrew a strange name. It can be translated as “the wood of folly.” In Biblical Hebrew, the term for this type of wood is “wood of shitim.” The word “shitim” is related to the word “shtut” which means stupidity or madness. This double meaning infers that the builders of the Tabernacle were to take shitim – which represents warped thinking – and make an abode for G‑d from it. The antithesis of, and rectification for irrational thinking is not rational thinking, but faith. Faith is a type of thinking which serves as a sanctuary for the Presence of G‑d.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (English Standard Version) 18(A) Let no one deceive himself.(B) If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19For(C) the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written,(D) “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20and again,(E) “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
b. Overlaid with pure gold.
- Represents the purity of God.
- It covers the natural wood. Represents the covering of God.
c. Upon it was a golden censer.
- Coals from the Altar of Sacrifice were placed in it and then incense on top of the coals.
II. What was the function of the Altar of Incense?
The ketoret or incense was a special blend of eleven herbs and balms whose precise ingredients and manner of preparation were commanded by G-d to Moses.
a. Twice daily the priest maintained the golden censer and altar along with the Menorah.
The Kohen Gadol / High Priest would trim the wicks and fill the lamp with oil which would fill the room with fresh light. The he would clean out the ashes from the censer.
b. Twice daily incense would be offered.
The Kohen Gadol / High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies with a pan of smoldering coals in his right hand and a ladle filled with ketoret /Incense in his left; there, he would scoop the incense into his hands, place it over the coals, wait for the chamber to fill with the fragrant smoke of the burning incense, and swiftly back out of the room.
c. To fill the holy place with sweet smell.
The animal sacrifice in outer court would produce a foul odor. This sacrifice represents the destruction of the evil animalistic soul of man. The incense would cover the foul odor produced by the burning of the flesh.
d. No unauthorized incense was to be offered.
None of the offerings offered on the Altar of Sacrifice were to be put on this offering of incense.
III. What do we learn about prayer from the construction and function of the Altar of Incense?
Our altar of prayer comes from the heart which is foolish (Acacia wood/ wood of folly) and full of man’s wisdom. 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 states “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness, and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” The Almighty covers our carnal man with His Holiness (covered with pure Gold). From the Altar of Sacrifice (living sacrifice) we take the fire of the Spirit and pour incense of prayer to the Father. Our prayers cover the foul odor of our burning evil inclination. It then fills the secret place or holy place of God in our lives with a sweet smell of intercession.
a. We are to maintain the secret place of our soul as a place of worship.
Matthew 6:6 (English Standard Version) 6But when you pray,(A) go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.(B) And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
b. We are to offer daily offerings of prayer to the Almighty.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (English Standard Version) 16(A) Rejoice always, 17(B) pray without ceasing, 18(C) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 John 5:14 (English Standard Version) 14And this is(A) the confidence that we have toward him, that(B) if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 (English Standard Version) 1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2(A) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and(B) dignified in every way. 3This is good, and(C) it is pleasing in the sight of(D) God our Savior,
c. Our prayers are incense to the Creator.
Revelation 8:3-4 (English Standard Version) 3And another angel came and stood(A) at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with(B) the prayers of all the saints on(C) the golden altar before the throne,4and(D) the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
d. We must not offer unauthorized prayers.
Matthew 6:7 (English Standard Version) 7“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as(C) the Gentiles do, for(D) they think that they will be heard(E) for their many words.
1 Timothy 2:8 (English Standard Version) 8I desire then that(A) in every place the men should pray,(B) lifting(C) holy hands without anger or quarreling;
James 4:3 (English Standard Version) 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask(A) wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
- When we pray empty prayers it is like offering unauthorized incense.
- When we pray out of our own lust and evil inclination it is like bringing meat offerings to the Altar of Incense.