[Rev. 8:1] ¶ Now when the Lamb opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. [Rev. 8:2] Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. [Rev. 8:3] Another angel holding a golden censer came and was stationed at the altar. A large amount of incense was given to him to offer up, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar that is before the throne. [Rev. 8:4] The smoke coming from the incense, along with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. [Rev. 8:5] Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it on the earth, and there were crashes of thunder, roaring, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
In the midst of the upheaval enveloping the believers of the first century where John reveals that these dire circumstances are actually comprising the judgment of Christ on His opponents, there is something glorious being revealed simultaneously in heaven. As the geo-political climate takes a turn against Christians on earth, their prayers ascend to heaven and fill heaven with an enchanting aroma that bears resemblance to holy incense used in Temple worship.
Little do we realise how effective our prayers are. Billy Graham is reported to have said that heaven is filled with answers to prayer that no-one asked for. While the saints, those who were faithfully following Christ, prayed for God to intervene and bring them relief, God was preparing to answer. Like many answers to prayer, things would seem to get worse before they would get better - but what John sees is that it is the apparent increase in the cause for prayer that God was actually using to bring about His purposes. How often we experience disappointment and setback and reckon it to be God ignoring us when in fact it is God answering us. C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Suffering is a divine test of trust. Chuck Swindoll has said, “Trust in God delights in His ‘No’ to our requests.”
These first century Christians were enduring tremendous hardship. This Revelation was a promised blessing to them. Surely this vision of their impassioned pleas filling heaven with the smoke of holy incense could have only encouraged them to pray more fervently. Would we pray more if we received a similar revelation of the effect of our prayers?