Jesus Christ has called us to be priests of God. So, as we read the instructions for the priests of Israel we find many basic principles which apply to us today. In fact, we discover that each article of the priests garments, each form of their worshipful service and each object in the tabernacle holds a remarkably clear prophetic meaning. Over the past weeks we've looked at the ark of the covenant in the Holy of holies, and the altar and laver in the courtyard, but today we'll focus on a small object in the large court of the tent ("the holy place") which was only 18 inches square by three feet high. It was called the "altar of incense" and in spite of its small size it was actually the high point of all priestly service, for it was the place where they would daily fellowship with God in prayer. The ark of the covenant represented the heart of God Himself and was the place where His presence dwelt in power. But everything else in the tabernacle complex was meant as a means to prepare people to come to this little altar. In the same room with it were two other symbols meant to remind the nation of the promises of God. On the north side was a table with 12 large loaves of bread, one for each tribe. By this table God was promising He would always provide the resources needed by His children. He would give them their "daily bread." On the south side was a seven-branched lampstand. These lamps burned constantly as a promise that God would always light the path of His people, seven days a week, giving them revelation of His will and Word.
We'll begin today by looking at the prophetic meaning of the altar of incense and then reflect on how God wants us to pray as New Testament believers.
The Altar of Incense
Morning and evening two offerings were made each day:
1) A lamb (29:39): for your sins, repairing the damage done to your relationship with God.
2) Incense (30:7, 8): for your needs, you're encouraged to boldly ask for "bread" and "light."
The smoke from the incense symbolized prayer rising up to God. It was sweet-smelling meaning He would receive it gladly (Ps 141:1, 2; Lk 1:9, 10; Rev 5:8; 8:3, 4).
Why should we pray?
1) God wants us to partner with Him in saving others so He can share with us the eternal rewards.
â¢ "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it, but I found no one." (Eze 22:30)
â¢ Also: Psalm 106:23; Jeremiah 15:1
2) We must exercise spiritual authority in order to properly protect ourselves and others (Eph 6:10-20).
3) Most answers to prayer require faith over an extended period of time. Therefore we must repeatedly refresh our faith and not let it erode (Lk 18:1-8).
4) Prayer awakens our spiritual "ears and eyes" which are essential for protection, guidance and spiritual gifts.
5) Intercession is one of the most selfless acts of love and therefore helps create Jesus' heart in us.
6) We need to constantly repair the damage done by sin.
7) We need to repeatedly submit our will to God.
8) We need to regularly rinse offenses out of our hearts.
How should we pray? (Mt 6:5-13)
1) Do your daily prayer in private and keep your mind focused on talking to God (vs 5, 6).
2) Keep it short and simple (long prayers arise from unbelief) (v 7).
3) Remember the point of your prayer is not to inform God of things He doesn't know (v 8).
4) Before you start your prayers (v 12) make sure you have first cleansed all bitterness from your heart by forgiving and even seeking reconciliation if need be (vs 14, 15; Mt 5:23-26; 7:2-5; Mk 11:25, 26).
5) Remember God loves you like a father and that you can totally trust Him because His heart is perfectly pure (v 9).
6) Begin by submitting to Him afresh by telling Him you want His will in everything that happens that day (v 10).
7) Specifically ask for whatever resources you need for that day (v 11).
8) Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness (you should have already forgiven others before you started) (v 12).
9) Ask God to guide you away from any trap the devil might set for you, or if He allows you to face a temptation to help you so you'll not be overcome (v 13; 1Co 10:13).
10) Remember God is able to protect you because He is far more powerful than the devil (v 13).
When should we pray?
1) Israel's pattern:
- Each day: morning and evening
- Each week: a day of rest
- Each year: three national worship gatherings
2) Morning: Prepare yourself to walk with God through the day (Ro 8:5, 6; Col 3:2).
3) Evening: Confess your sins and unload your worries so you can rest peacefully (Php 4:6, 7).
1) Do you find yourself often praying spontaneously during a day? If so, give us an example of where and when you might pray. 2) Disciplining ourselves to have regular prayer times each day can be a challenge. If you heard a practical hint in the sermon or a thought has crossed your mind about how to get started, share it with us. 3) Anyone who has a daily pattern of prayer tell us how you do it. What spiritual help do you receive from your prayers?