Reading No. 6 – Friday, December 12, 2003
By Dae Chun Kang, South Korea
And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer.” Daniel 9:20, 21. The prayer of Daniel should be studied by all those who want their prayers to be answered, and especially by the remnant people living at the end of the world’s history.
From the prayer of Daniel
In 538 B.C., when Darius, king of the Medes, conqueror of Babylon, was on the throne, Daniel was studying the prophecy of Jeremiah, and he understood that Jerusalem would be restored after 70 years of desolation. Daniel 9:1,2.
Just as prophesized by Isaiah (Isaiah 45:1, 2), Daniel witnessed the destruction of the impregnable city of Babylon by Cyrus (539 B.C.). The prophecy of Jeremiah, stating that the desolation of Jerusalem would end after 70 years, was about to be fulfilled. What was Daniel to do in this solemn moment? He deeply felt the need to offer fervent supplication to the Lord for the fulfilment of the prophecy. He, therefore, set “his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Satan knows the power of the prayer of a righteous man and what it can accomplish. “Satan cannot endure to have his powerful rival appealed to, for he fears and trembles before His strength and majesty. At the sound of fervent prayer, Satan’s whole host trembles.” -Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 346. Satan was determined to thwart Daniel’s prayers by having him thrown into the lions’ den (Daniel 6). But Satan’s plan to stop God’s work by threatening Daniel did not succeed; on the contrary, Daniel’s supplications helped to bring about the fulfillment of God’s word.
“God did not prevent Daniel’s enemies from casting him into the lions’ den; He permitted evil angels and wicked men thus far to accomplish their purpose; but it was that He might make the deliverance of His servant more marked, and the defeat of the enemies of truth and righteousness more complete.” -Prophets and Kings, pp. 543,544.
Daniel’s deliverance from the lions’ den greatly impressed Cyrus, who was King Darius’ successor. This led to the fulfillment of the following prophecy: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Isaiah 44:28.
“The deliverance of Daniel from the den of lions had been used of God to create a favorable impression upon the mind of Cyrus the Great. The sterling qualities of the man of God as a statesman of far-seeing ability led the Persian ruler to show him marked respect and to honor his judgment. And now, just at the time God had said He would cause His temple at Jerusalem to be rebuilt, He moved upon Cyrus as His agent to discern the prophecies concerning himself, with which Daniel was so familiar, and to grant the Jewish people their liberty.” -Prophets and Kings, p. 557.
Here we see what the prayer of a single, faithful person can achieve and how heaven responds to the prayer of just one person. Even before Daniel had finished praying, God had already commissioned the mighty angel Gabriel to fly to the earth and answer his prayer. Daniel 9:21, 23. When a faithful person prays, heaven immediately reacts, as it happened in Daniel’s case. Oh, how wonderful this is!
The privilege of prayer
Very few of God’s people understand the privilege of prayer. Many live very lonely lives without it. Immeasurable resources of heaven and powerful angels are at their service, but still they don’t pray. Others may pray, but their prayers show a lack of faith and are only formalistic. These prayers do not reach heaven.
“There are few who rightly appreciate or improve the precious privilege of prayer.” -Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 200. “Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation.” -Steps to Christ, pp. 94,95.
“Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience. Neglect the exercise of prayer, or engage in prayer spasmodically, now and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties lose their vitality, the religious experience lacks health and vigor.” -Gospel Workers, pp. 254,255.
The altar ofpmyer-the golden altar
“Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it. And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.” Exodus 30:1,6.
The altar of incense, the symbol of prayer, was located close to the veil that divided the holy and the most holy places of the sanctuary. This golden altar was situated as close to the mercy seat as possible, nearer than any of the other objects in the sanctuary. The incense and its smoke rose over the veil to fill the most holy place, and even reached the camp of the Israelites.
This incense represents the prayers of God’s people ascending to the throne of God. Many heroes who experienced the mighty power of prayer are listed in the Bible. Elijah’s prayer closed and opened the windows of heaven, and Joshua’s prayer stopped the sun. Hezekiah’s prayer “brought the shadow ten degrees backward.” 2 Kings 20:11.
“Satan leads many to believe that prayer to God is useless and but a form…. By his devices he would divert the mind from these important exercises, that the soul may not lean for help upon the Mighty One and obtain strength from Him to resist his attacks. I was pointed to the fervent, effectual prayers of God’s people anciently. ‘Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly.’ Daniel prayed unto his God three times a day. Satan is enraged at the sound of fervent prayer, for he knows that he will suffer loss.” -Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 295.
Incense and the prayer that is heard
The many materials used for incense on the altar are recorded in the Bible. These are “stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, and frankincense.” Exodus 30:34.
All these components were ground into soft powder and mixed in equal proportions. Incense thus made was burned upon the golden altar, and the savor filled the entire sanctuary as well as the camp. This incense was to be used only on this altar of incense, and warnings were given never to use it for any other purpose.
Prayer without confession of sin is powerless
Stacte is a herb with a very bitter taste but when it is burnt it releases a very strong aroma. It represents the bitterness of the experience with sin. When the Holy Spirit speaks to our conscience and convinces us of sin, our guilty feelings cause us great pain. It is painful to confess our sins, specially the ones committed against others because our pride gets on the way. In the Bible we read: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew 5:23,24. A prayer without confession will not be answered. Confessing sins could be painful; without this, the prayer will not be blessed or the promise fulfilled. Nevertheless, if there is faithful confession before the altar of mediation, then the prayer will ascend as sweet incense to the heavenly throne.
As the bitter-tasting herb is burned it releases a sweet savor, so our confessed sins will be burned, and the forgiven sinner will taste infinite peace and happiness, which is a pleasing incense offering to God.
The prayer of gratitude
The volatile substance in Onycha is responsible for the incenses’ odour. Onycha, however, does not have an odour but it evaporates quickly carrying the other odour containing ingredients with it. What do souls, who have been forgiven and saved feel at the start of their experience with God? They certainly feel gratitude and praise Him for His goodness and mercy. Gratitude and praise to God should not be lacking in our prayers. These brighten up our lives and make the power of our prayers last longer.
Like the rapidly ascending Onyecha our praises should ascend to God quickly and continually, and our sphere of influence will be enlarged.
True Christians will therefore be offering thanksgiving prayers even amid trials and hardships.
The prayers of thankfulness and praise that the apostle Paul offered even in the dark prison at midnight have not even today lost their sweet savor. Therefore we are admonished to “rejoice evermore…. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16,18. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12,13.
Pray persistently with faith
Galbanum, another spice used for incense, had a bitter and hot savor. Although it doesn’t have a pleasant fragrance, when mixed with other spices, it enhances their odour. Galbanum’s property reminds us of the widow persistently pleading with the unjust judge. Persistency alone cannot be sweet; but when employed for a good purpose, it gives a very strong odour. “We must show a firm, undeviating trust in God. Often He delays to answer us in order to try our faith or test the genuineness of our desire. Having asked according to His word, we should believe His promise and press our petitions with a determination that will not be denied.
«God does not say, Ask once, and you shall receive. He bids us ask. Unwearyingly persist in prayer. The persistent asking brings the petitioner into a more earnest attitude, and gives him an increased desire to receive the things for which he asks…. «Our prayers are to be as earnest and persistent as was the petition of the needy friend who asked for the loaves at midnight. The more earnestly and steadfastly we ask, the closer will be our spiritual union with Christ. We shall receive increased blessings because we have increased faith.» -Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 145,146.
Prayer shall be lifted in the name of Christ
Frankincense harmonizes and enhances the characteristics of other incenses. It is also used as a medicine. In the Scriptures, frankincense symbolizes Christ who heals sins. It says, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of My people recovered?” Jeremiah 8:22. Through Grist’s intercession, the prayers of the saints reach the throne of God, and by His name all prayers are answered. Our sins are forgiven and covered by His blood.
“Upon many is a soul sickness which no earthly balm can reach nor physician heal. Pray for these souls. Bring them to Jesus. Tell them that there is a balm in Gilead and a Physician there.” -Prophets and Kings, p. 719.
Do not offer selfish prayers
The incense was not to be used or made for any purpose other than for the golden altar of incense. “And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.” Exodus 30: 37,38.
We should take heed of this warning and our prayers should therefore not be selfish, mixing the common with the holy.
Many people pray for that which will not be a blessing for them. Therefore the Bible instructed us how to pray: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” 2 Corinthians. 2:14-17. Here is a beautiful and perfect example. Let us go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ, with sweat like great drops of blood running down from His brow, prayed for the redemption of humanity. Our prayers should also end with the words: “not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Matthew. 26:39.