Prayer Interrupts Heaven
“The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.”
— Revelation 8:4
‘The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is an interrupting heaven specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.”
– Dallas Willard
Let’s look at how seriously the writers of Scripture viewed prayer.
In the eighth chapter of the book of Revelation, John describes a scene in heaven after the seals have been broken on the scrolls that tell the story of human sin and violence and God’s judgment.
Then a remarkable thing happens. John writes that “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” During this time an angel with a golden censer comes to the altar and offers much incense, which is a representation of prayers arising from earth:
The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
Following this come great acts of judgment on the earth — pictured by rumbles of thunder, flashes of lightning, and great earthquakes. But what is most striking is that these acts come in response to the prayers of the saints.
Usually we think of events on earth being interrupted because of actions taken in heaven. However, here it is the other way around. All of heaven comes to a standstill. The endless songs and praises of heavenly hosts suddenly stop. Why? Because someone is praying.
All of heaven stops so the prayers of the saints — your prayers and mine, every one of them — can rise before God. They are heard. They matter.
Prayers of real human beings — like you and me — interrupt heaven.
And what happens next on earth happens because people pray. Walter Wink says that this is the message of John’s text: “History belongs to the intercessors — those who believe and pray the future into being.”
History does not belong to the powerful, or the wealthy, or the rulers, or the armies, or the corporations, or the global media empires. What they do on their own, apart from God, may look impressive for a time. But the day will come when all merely human actions will be tossed, forgotten, on the ash heap of the dead past.
History belongs to the intercessors — to those who believe and pray the future into being.
Interceding is what Jesus is doing now:
“It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”(Romans 8:34)
His teaching ministry lasted three years. His intercessory ministry has been going on for two thousand.
The Bible’s teaching on prayer leads overwhelmingly to one conclusion:
Prayer changes things.
(Adapted from The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg)
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for always listening. Thank you for our prayers are in your presence. May your praise forever by on my lips. May prayers never cease from my life. I receive grace to believe and pray the future into being. I intercede that there will be a fresh outpouring of your grace and favor on my community, church, nation and the earth today.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.