Bella Vista Church of Christ

LIFELINES

02/27/2019

Jeff Grisham

 

A Time for Prayer

 

  When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.  And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5 ESV)

 

  The seven churches to which Revelation is addressed existed in a world that needed change. These were people who were viewed as with suspicion for abstaining from the practices encouraged by their culture and demanded by the Roman Empire. They were facing the loss of everything they had, including their very lives. From the examples that we have from Scripture regarding our first-century brothers and sisters, we can reasonably assume that they prayed fervently for things to change. It would also be reasonable to assume that they could be wondering if their prayers were being heard.

 

  As John records for them the visions of what is happening behind the scenes in the throne room of God, he assures them that their prayers are not wasted. This short passage from Revelation 8 told them, and by extension tells us, several things.

 

  First, they would see that God hears their prayers. As Bible students, this should not surprise us. Think of what God told Moses at the burning bush. The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.” (Exodus 3:7). John’s readers could be certain that God heard their prayers. You and I can have that same certainty. God hears the prayers of his people.

 

  Second, they would see that their prayers have an impact. As a result of the prayers of the saints, the angel threw the censer to earth, and things happened. John is letting his readers know that prayer is effectual. Things happen as a result of prayer, even though it may not happen in the way that we expect, or within the time frame that we desire. One of the major themes of Revelation is that God is still on his throne and in control. Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not. God is continuously at work to bring about his desired results. It may not be exactly when or how we desire, but we know that we can trust him to do the right thing at the right time.

 

  We live in a world that is in desperate need of change. I’m not much of a news junkie, but spending about ten minutes in our never-ending news cycle and we can see tensions along national lines, economic lines, party lines, religious lines, and racial lines. These tensions are building and building until we see violence, hatred, and divisions. The world desperately needs change. And, one of the most powerful ways to affect change in our world is prayer. 

 

  Church, the only thing that will bring about lasting change in this world is the gospel of Jesus Christ; the same message that Paul would refer to later as the “gospel of peace.” Only when we, as human beings, stop trying to force our own will and ways on each other in order to achieve some kind of security, and really submit to the King who died for us will we ever see real and lasting change. May our prayers be for the ability to freely spread the word of God, and also for courage to make Jesus known by our lives as well as our words, in spite of any and all opposition. May we pray for courage and boldness as we follow the example of Jesus, a willingness to give our lives for the sake of the Gospel.

 

—JEFF GRISHAM