Last Word on Prayer
The Revelation is a fusion of vision and prayer. When the seventh seal is opened, there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. A climax has been reached. The silence prepares the mind to receive an incredible truth. While conflicts raged between good and evil, prayers went up from devout bands of first century Christians all over the Roman empire. Massive engines of persecution and scorn were ranged against them. They had neither weapons nor votes. They had little money and no prestige. Why didn’t they have mental breakdowns? Why didn’t they cut and run? They prayed.
They prayed. And in order to hear those prayers, writes Eugene Peterson, there was silence in heaven. Peterson continues describing this golden heavenly silence:
“Out of the silence, action developed: an angel came before the altar of God with a censer. He mixed the prayers of the Christians with incense (which cleansed them from impurities) and combined them with fire (God’s Spirit) from the altar. Then he put it all in the censer and threw it over heaven’s ramparts. The censer, plummeting through the air, landed on earth. On impact there were ‘peals of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake’ (Rev. 8:5). The prayers which had ascended, unremarked by the journalists of the day, returned with immense force – in George Herbert’s phrase, as ‘reversed thunder’. Prayer reenters history with incalculable effects. Our earth is shaken daily by it.”
We live in a noisy world. We are yelled at, promoted, called. Everyone has an urgent message for us. We are surrounded with noise: telephone, radio, television, stereo. Messages are amplified deafeningly. The world is a mob in which everyone is talking at once and no one is willing or able to listen. But God listens. He not only speaks to us, he listens to us. His listening to us is an even greater marvel than his speaking to us. It is rare to find anyone who listens carefully and thoroughly. It is rare to find our stammering understood and our clumsy speech deciphered. When it happens we know that what we say and feel are immensely important. We acquire dignity. We never know how well we think or speak until we find someone who listens to us.
God listens. Everything we say, every groan, every murmur, every stammering attempt at prayer: all this is listened to. All heaven quiets down. The loud angel voices, the piercing trumpet messages, the thundering throne songs are still while God listens.
The prayers of the faithful must be heard, comments Peterson:
“The spontaneous hallelujahs, the solemn amens, the desperate ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ the agonized ‘Take this cup from me’, the tempered ‘Nevertheless not my will but your will’, the faithfully spoken ‘Our Father who are in heaven’, the joyful ‘Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you did create all things, and by your will they exists and were created.’ All the psalms, said and sung for centuries in voices boisterous, subdued, angry, and serene are now heard – heard personally, carefully, accurately. God silences the elders and the angels. Not one of our words is lost in a wind tunnel of gossip or drowned in a cataract of the world’s noise. We are listened to… Dramatic changes take place in these moments of silence. The world rights itself. We perceive reality from the vantage point of God’s saving work and not from the morass of desperate muddle. We acquire hope.”
Have you ever considered that prayer is the means by which God accomplishes his purpose in history? In our passage this week, Chad will explore the power and purpose of prayer in this vision of the Apostle John from Revelation 8:1-5. Richard Phillips writes that ‘the neglect of prayer is one of the great calamities and chief failings of the Western church today.’ May this not be true of us. Will you commit to join us this Sunday that you might become a prayer warrior?
On bended knee,