If you had seen me on my run a few months ago, you would have wondered about the strange girl with her hands in the air and tears streaming down her face. Those are some God-moments I have out there on the asphalt with the sunrise painting the sky in sherbet colors and confetti leaves strewn in the gutter. On that particular morning, I was listening to a message from Timothy Keller on Abraham and Genesis 15. In his message, Keller describes how only fifteen chapters in we already have the gospel message. The Lord is speaking to Abraham in a vision reminding him of the promise He has made of an heir for Abraham and future generations who will be as vast as the stars in the sky. Abraham asks God how he will know, and God tells him to bring the animals–a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Keller goes on to say that Abraham would have known exactly why God requested these specific animals because Abraham knew how covenants were made in that day. He would have known God was making a covenant with him, but this covenant wouldn’t be like other covenants.
Usually in a covenant after the animals were halved, the two men would walk between them as a sign that if he should break the covenant death should come upon him. On this night when God makes the covenant with Abraham, God put Abraham to sleep, and God Himself and God alone in the representation of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces. Keller points out that God was making the covenant with Abraham and carrying full weight of the outcome. If God broke the covenant, God would die. But, also, if Abraham broke the covenant, God would die.
Abraham, like you and me, was human and therefore marred with sin. God knew that he and all that followed would break the covenant. He knew we would mess up, and He knew He would have to die.
God would stop at nothing to be in relationship with us.
Then in Exodus when we see Moses and the Israelites leaving Egypt, we see God’s presence leading them through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (See the fire again?) And when Moses is on Mt. Sinai, God gives him specific instructions to build a tabernacle. And what is this tabernacle? It is a place for God’s presence to dwell with His people.
There is so much for us to learn in God’s design of the tabernacle for each piece of it points to our Savior, Jesus Christ. But the piece I want to focus on today is the altar of incense. In the tabernacle, there were three main areas: the outer court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. There was a veil (think thick rug not thin, gauzy material) that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. In front of that veil in the Holy Place, was the altar of incense. This is where the priest would offer incense as he prayed for the people every morning and evening.
Donna Gaines in her book Leaving Ordinary points out that incense in Scripture often represents prayer. The altar of incense points to Christ, our Great High Priest who right now is interceding for us. God designed a tabernacle and gave Moses the plans because God would stop at nothing to be in relationship with us.
And then in the darkness of night, a light pierced the sky. The Light of the world had come. In Matthew 1:22 we read, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” God with us. God would stop at nothing to be in relationship with us.
He would dwell on earth facing every trial we would ever face, wrapped in flesh and bones and the vulnerability of a baby and then a boy and then a man. He would eat and drink and do life with His disciples, pouring into them. Until the day when He went to the cross for us, when He took His last breath. And in that moment, the veil within the temple, a veil fashioned after the veil in the original tabernacle, was torn in two from top to bottom. And prayer was forever changed because God would stop at nothing to be in relationship with us.
We don’t have to go to a priest or wait for one day a year. We don’t have to seek another human to intercede for us. Because Jesus Christ came and lived and died and rose again, we can hear and speak with God Almighty through His Word. The veil was torn, and Jesus became our Great High Priest. Now, Jesus intercedes for us.
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:1-8
Imagine those golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is a saint, not because of any good they’ve done but because His blood cleansed them and made them righteous. The incense in the tabernacle would have been continually wafting up, over and over and over again. That’s the power of praying God’s Word!
Things we pray over people and circumstances today can impact our children, our grandchildren, and generations to come.
The things we pray today aren’t vapors that disappear. They are bowls of incense that keep wafting up before our Lamb of God. In Leaving Ordinary, Donna Gaines says, “You prayers are eternal because they are tangible in heaven.” If we are going to be praying things that last for eternity, we need to be praying the right things. I know how selfish my prayers can be if I pray on my own. If God answered all my selfish prayers prayed without His Word, I’m afraid of what my life would look like. No, we want to pray God’s Word because His Word is Truth. His Word is Power. His Word is alive and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). My words are puny and fearful and self-seeking, but His Word is life and life abundant.
One of the pages of the Dividers pdf is Revelation 5:8 from the passage above. I slipped this page into the front cover of my prayer journal binder. It reminds me of the eternal impact my prayers have, and it reminds me of the Lamb who died because God would stop at nothing to be in relationship with us.
I know we covered a lot today, most of it being the “why” we pray Scripture, but I don’t want to leave you without some practical steps to continue building your notebook.
- Once you’ve pulled together your binder, page protectors, and some white paper, let’s start getting the basic order and structure in line. If you haven’t printed out the dividers and want to do so, you can find a place in your prayer journal binder to put the Revelation 5:8 sheet. Like I mentioned earlier I have the Revelation 5:8 verse in the cover of my prayer journal. Then, I have the Armor of God in the first page protector in my binder. Miss Nan, the woman who taught me to pray God’s Word, also taught me to pray the Armor of God every morning. The order might be easier to explain in list form.
- Revelation 5:8 in the cover ~ This is a reminder of the eternal impact my prayers have and the Lamb who intercedes for us.
- Armor of God ~ Behind this page I have different verses I’ve collected about spiritual warfare. We’ll talk more about that Friday. Praise ~ This section is a great one for favorite verses from Psalms. I also have a list of names of Jesus that I add to regularly. We’ll talk a lot about this Friday, but you could go ahead and write “Names of Jesus” on a piece of paper and slip it into a page protector and put it in this section.
- My heart, soul, and mind ~ Behind this divider I have verses I’ve collected about my identity in Christ.
- My husband ~ Self-explanatory, but this section is all for Matt with verses and specific prayer requests for him. I love to add dates and updates to these prayer requests. This reminds me of God’s faithfulness over time. Also, in this section I have a page with specific prayer requests and verses the Holy Spirit has given me for physical and financial needs for our family.
- Home ~ There are a number of verses I pray over our physical home, and I keep those in this section.
- My children ~ I have a page for each daughter. Some of the verses are the same for all my girls, and some verses are specific to their individual personalities, gifts, and struggles. I also have a page here of verses I pray for our adoption and our Ethiopian child and birth parents.
- My loved ones ~ This includes our extended family, my home team, and the girls I am blessed to mentor.
- The World ~ This is a place to pray for different places and people abroad. The verses in this section focus on Africa and Ethiopia, our Compassion children, and missionaries we sponsor.
- My ministry ~ We will cover this one in depth on the fourth week. For now, you can just put the divider in a page protector.
I have given you just the briefest explanation of each section, but don’t worry we will go through them in depth over the next two weeks. For right now, just put your binder in whatever order you prefer. You may want different sections, more sections, or less sections.
This is about your prayer journey, so make it your own.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or don’t know which verses to start with, that’s okay. We covered a ton today, but during Friday’s post I will give you an easy starting point to start adding verses to your notebook. For the next couple days, just try to get the layout of your binder in an order that you like. And remember, you can always change it later if you want to. Maybe today you could reread Revelation 5:1-8 again and let it seep deep into your soul, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered. . . .” God would stop at nothing to be in relationship with us.
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