Our family enjoys the fun and refreshment of water slides and lazy rivers. At most water parks, there are also one or two spots where large buckets hang overhead filling little by little with water. The closer the bucket gets to being full, the larger the crowd grows beneath in anticipation—children and adults alike wait for the outpouring. Then SUDDENLY the bucket tips and a great flood of refreshment crashes down on all below!
In the Book of Revelation, the Bible describes golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8). In other words, the prayers of God’s people collectively fill heavenly bowls with sweet aroma, much like the burnt offerings did in days of old. In Revelation 8, we discover what these bowls are used for:
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 alter which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:3-5).
Much like the water park buckets, the prayers of God’s people fill golden bowls in heaven. As these bowls fill, the prayers are mingled with incense creating a pleasing aroma to God. Then as the bowls brim over, an angel takes the censor dipped in incense and prayers, and showers the fire of God to the earth.
God said, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The “fire from the altar” is the power of God released from heaven to change the earth. As our prayers are lifted up to God, the golden bowls are filled until they reach a point when the bowls tip and pour out God’s power and provision on the earth.
When God’s people pray earnestly, the “effective, fervent prayer of the righteous” avails much (James 5:16). I’m not talking about begging God. Begging God is not the same as believing God. Effective, fervent prayer is always filled with faith. But to be effective, our prayers can’t be like bullets, popping off toward God like He’s a target. No, our prayers must be spirit-led and intentional. “The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]” (Amplified).
Jentzen Franklin said, “What a marvelous image! When you pray, you are filling the prayer bowls of heaven. In God’s perfect timing, your prayers are mixed with the fire of God (His power) and cast back down to earth to change your situation… Even if you don’t feel like anything is happening in the natural world, when you pray, you are filling the prayer bowls in the spirit realm. When they are full, they will tilt and pour out answers to your prayers!” (The Amazing Discernment of Women, by Jentezen Franklin)
The truth is, we’re guilty of not lingering in prayer long enough. The people at the water park who wearied of waiting for the buckets to fill missed an outpouring. The same is true in prayer. However, it’s not about works (trying to make something happen), it’s about diligence. The word “earnest” describes something serious in intention, purpose, or effort. It can also mean sincerely zealous, meaning it is active, devoted, and diligent, while at the same time being free of hypocrisy or deceit. This kind of prayer is genuine and real. It’s not about how many words are prayed or the manner in which we pray, as long as our prayers are heartfelt, faith-filled, and authentic.
The earth needs saints to be fervent in prayer. God would not have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah if there had been even 10 righteous people calling out to Him for deliverance. The same is still true today if God’s people will pray. He is ready to tilt the prayer bowl on this generation! So be encouraged in your prayer life—the golden bowls are being filled and the fire of heaven is about to fall!
Copyright © 2009 Daphne Delay
Follower of Christ, writer & artist.