[Recently while preaching through Revelation, Pastor Haley highlighted this verse
Revelation5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
"You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."
As we have learned before the Temple and Tabernacle were made according to the pattern shown to Moses in Heaven. Moreover the other prophets who have seen a vision of heaven have reported this same familiar scene of the heavenly temple of God. As you recall from the model we had set up in church, the holy place in the temple contained an alter of incense, where incense burned continually. We are told by the Apostle John that the real incense in heaven. is the prayer of the saints, this is the pleasant aroma Almighty God has chosen to fill his Holy Temple.
Exodus 30 tells us that every morning and every night Aaron was to burn incense in the presence of God, so this aroma would constantly fill the holy place just outside of the Most Holy where the Arc of the Covenant was held. Moreover the incense was to be made skillfully using a unique formula. The priest offered incense literally to invite the presence of God among His people. Now consider all this in light of the knowledge that the real incense of God is our prayers.
Today James will talk to us about the place that prayer should hold in the lives of God's people. ]
Meeting Specific Needs
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
[Many times in scriptures we are warned of the struggles, troubles, tribulation, and suffering the saints do and will experience. Each of the difficult times we experience is a reminder to invite the presence of God into our lives. If we resist God's instruction and insist on suffering alone we invite discouragement and even depression to become permanent companions.
After the suffering Christian, the next example is the cheerful saint, then one who is experiencing joy in their lives. How should this one respond? They should praise God by singing psalms. Do you realize that praise is a form of prayer, because we are speaking to God celebrating His grace and mercy, glorifying His name. If the cheerful fail to praise God, their rejoicing could easily turn into personal boasting, and self glorification . We used this verse a few weeks ago, Jeremiah 9:24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.
The 3rd example is the sick, those who's bodies are not healing as they should. To the sick James says they will need an extra dose of humility to ask others to pray for him. He says call the elders of the church together to pray, and anoint the sick with oil, our symbol of the Holy Spirit, calling on the name of the Lord. Verse 15 says these prayers offered in faith will "save" the sick. As we read about the Lord's Supper or communion practiced in the early church we are told that many were sick because of they did not come humbly confessing their sins, so they took of the elements of bread and wine unworthily and for that reason they became sick and some even died. James concludes that by this humble submission and seeking God that those sick because of sin would also be forgiven.
We are no long in the age of the Apostles, when healing was one of the sign gifts, like speaking in unlearned languages, and foretelling future events; but we still believe in seeking God in prayer for the healing of the sick. We have seen some miraculous healing here on earth, while other saints are"lifted up" in the presence of the Lord once the physical body has failed. Much like the other examples, the clear point for the sick is not to go it alone. When the body is failing, seek God humbly with the elders of the church, in prayer, for healing and forgiveness.]
16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
[Hidden sin is the worst because it is untreated, being covered up. When we cover our sin, we foolishly think we are hiding from God like Adam and Eve in the garden. But fig leaves and other deceptions don't cover sin, only the blood of Jesus can do that. So instead of hiding sin, confess it. Like the sick, invite some faithful saints into your life with the Lord, so that you can be healed. We should be less worried about what other people might think, than about the harm of unconfessed sin, and the danger of a powerless life when the Lord is not invited in through prayer.
I like this emphasis on fervent prayer. In the temple incense wasn't like the modern kind where the scented oils are combined with charcoal that can be burned directly. They had to take coals off the brazen alter and use those to burn the incense; they had to add heat for the smoke of the incense to fill the temple. So think of fervent prayer as prayer with passion, incense burning with the heat of fire. James says this kind of prayer is effective and powerful, these are prayers that get results.]
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain in the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
[How powerful is prayer? Verse 17 says that through prayer God was entreated to change the weather. Last week we had a day of prayer as a church and one of our main requests was that we prayed for rain. This Saturday it rained, and it was about 15 degrees cooler, I thank God for the rain, let's pray for more. Invite God into all the areas of our lives, even the weather.]
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
[God is patient, and many of us have experienced a season of our lives separated from God. We've had times where we ran from God, rebelled against God, and just lived the way we wanted. We do need to understand though that sometimes believers cross the line of no return after which God will just take them, as we studied back in Hebrews.
So unrepentant Christians are in danger, and we should do what we can to turn them back to God. Make those phone calls, seek out those who wander, and if you turn them back to God you can literally save their life. It's easy for one to fall, but if we walk with friends and family it's much harder for Satan to tempt us with his deceptions.
The two themes in this passage are the power of prayer, and the danger of going it alone. We need a lot of work on both of these points. I'm glad life groups are starting up again soon to encourage us to be involved in each other lives. Even more than that, we need to pray, to be constantly in prayer. We need to fill the temple of God with the smoke of our prayers, inviting Him into the most troubling parts of our lives. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but what good is a temple without the presence of God?
John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
That is the outcome of a life without prayer; without God's continual presence in our lives we can't do anything. A prayerless saint is a powerless saint; but a prayerful saint is a powerful force for God in the world.
Revelation 8: 3 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.
What kind a temple are you, filled with the fragrant smoke of prayer, or empty and powerless without the daily presence of God?]