[July 15]—Livin’ On A. . .Part Eleven: Setting Fire To The Earth

Revelation 8:1-5

            Today we’re finishing up our short study on prayer. We’ve talked about the main aspects (praise, thanksgiving, confession, and petition), when to pray, how to pray, our High Priest who’s our Go-between, etc. But I want to reemphasize something I said at the beginning of this study. The ultimate purpose of this is not to learn more about prayer. It's to help you and encourage you to pray better and more often. To the degree you pray better and more often, I’ve succeeded or failed.
            I feel I need to end this on a note of encouragement. One of my favorite paintings illustrates what I’m trying to get at here. 

Inside the room is a father praying over his son. Nothing special. Happens in millions of homes all over the world. If you were inside that room, you'd hear nothing but whispers and the quiet breathing of a sleeping child. But outside. . . there's a war going on. Something malevolent wants to come in, but there's a guardian over this family, and like Gandalf in front of the Balrog, the Lord's servant is telling the servant of the Enemy "You. . . shall not. . . PASS!!!!" Gives me chills to think about it. 
            The book of Revelation has a lot of purposes, and those who go to it merely (or mostly) to get a schedule on the Apocalypse are really missing out on a lot. More than any other book, it gives us images on how the spiritual realm and the physical realm interact. In fact, they flow together seamlessly. What happens up in heaven immediately affects what happens on the earth.
            But today’s passage is one in which we see something pretty unusual: Things on earth affect what happens in Heaven. An angel takes incense, along with the prayers of God’s people, and offers it up to the Almighty on his throne. Then, at the Lord’s command, the angel “took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” As near as I can tell—and I’m backed up with some good commentators here—the prayers of God’s people instigated the angel’s actions. Heaven sent fire on the earth in response to the prayers of God’s people.
            Now, in the name of theological precision, I have to note here that I thoroughly believe that any true prayer--that God is going to hear--is ultimately instigated by the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to ultimately initiate anything. I don’t want to come up with anything on my own. I want to tap into what my Lord already has planned and jump into the flow of that stream.
            But having said that, prayers are his means of moving the earth, just like he uses other means.
            And that doesn’t negate my point in the slightest. Our prayers affect what happens in the spiritual realm, which will ultimately affect what happens in the physical realm.
            Imagine for a moment a scene like that painting up above. A little girl is praying by her bedside. Being quite young, she struggles with the right words. Her theology might not be completely on the money. Her grammar leaves a lot to be desired. To the naked eye, there’s not a lot going on here, just a little girl mumbling quietly. A fully grown man would seem to be a lot more powerful than anything going on with the little girl. There are countless things in the world of men, such as the meetings of presidents and kings, which would be much more significant, at least to the naked eye.
            But that’s not what’s happening behind the scenes. Angels stand in awe of the Spirit’s work as he guides her prayers from the inside-out and she struggles with the right words. The prayers are brought up to the Savior, where he takes them, makes them acceptable, and presents them before the Father. Heaven is moved, and earth is shaken.
            Your prayers might not seem like much. Maybe you’ve been praying for the same thing for years, perhaps for the salvation of a loved one. You haven’t seen anything happening. Assuming that there’s nothing blocking it (like we talked about a few days ago), then there are things happening. The problem is that you can only see in the physical realm, not the spiritual one. You don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes.
            Please don’t give up, not until you feel the Lord’s leading to do so. That time you make one more effort, that one more prayer might be the one that does what we’re talking about. What you’re sending into the spiritual realm will eventually have an effect that you can see, one way or another. Don’t give up.

Father God, it is an incredible thing to think about what my pitiful, half-selfish, pathetic prayers can do when Jesus takes them. Please give me the patience I need. You have vested me with such responsibility. Please, by your grace, help me to live up to it. 

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