READ: Revelation 8-10
BACKGROUND: Again, there is a lot here. And it can be confusing. Please feel free to ask questions and I’ll get back to you.
One important thing to remember when you’re reading Revelation is that it isn’t chronological. Chronology wasn’t as much a feature in ancient writings as it is today. So, John actually writes it in a fascinating way, with 7 sections that each cover the period between the first and second coming of Christ and each section becoming progressively more focused on the second coming and less on the first. So, as you read, you’ll definitely think, “Hey, it feels like I read this before. Or something a lot like it. I’m confused.” The answer is: you have! You’re just getting more and more details as the book goes on, section-by-section. Hopefully that helps the confusion or reading Revelation a bit.
THINK: One of my favorite images in the Bible is in Revelation 8:1-5. The picture of all the prayers of God’s people, collected over the millennia, sitting in Heaven upon a golden altar and then being offered up before God like smoke and incense almost overwhelms me. It is an utterly astonishing thing that God is communicating to us here. Our prayers – yours and mine – are not lost or forgotten. Not one of them has vanished and not one has been ignored. Instead, they are being collected in Heaven and stored alongside the prayers of all of God’s people.
Your prayers are written out before God’s throne right alongside the prayers of Joseph crying out from the depths of an Egyptian prison, Moses struggling to find faith in the desert, David hiding out in a cave in fear for his life, Peter looking at the cross upon which he was about to be executed, Paul swimming desperately for land after being shipwrecked on his journey to share the gospel, and countless millions of prayers from millions of saints throughout the years.
God is showing us something phenomenal here: we have a role to play in the direction and consummation of history. We are not simply leaves blowing along in the winds of history, carried wherever a plan that exists outside of us decides to send us. We are active participants in what God is doing, in his grand design to set all things right and make all things new! I think it’s so easy to stop believing this. Christians, especially those who pray, can appear insignificant and useless to the world at large. But in God’s sight ever single one of our prayers matters. They silence heaven. Literally, the angels who never stop praising God and saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy” pause in utter silence so that the prayers of men and women through the centuries can be heard before the throne.
In Luke 18:1, Jesus tells us that we should not lose heart in our prayers, but instead continue, persevere, and pray continually. Revelation gives us a powerful visual of the fact that these prayers do, in fact, change the world. They are the impetus for God’s action in history, the fuel for Divine intervention in the brokenness of the things we see around us, both now and at the end of all things.
I am convinced that the one thing that we cannot possibly do too much of in our lives is often the one thing we push to the margins of our lives and do admittedly too little of: pray. Prayer matters. God promises it again and again. He promises to hear and to answer and to act. Our prayers change the world. They will bring about the new creation. Let us resolve today that if we fail at anything in our journeys with God it will not be prayer. And let us remember that, as Charles Spurgeon once eloquently put it, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.”
PRAY: Stop and think about your prayers on the altar before God’s throne, alongside those of all the saints who have gone before you. Think about the world around you and all of its brokenness. Think about prayer being the nerve that moves God’s power into action. Then, with those thoughts in mind, take some time today to life up to God those things that you wish to see him change in your world.