Summary: Your prayers come before God like sweet smelling incense! This is a short homily given at a residential care home for the elderly.
[NOTE: You may find it helpful to place a wooden cross on a table, perhaps in the centre of the room, and to burn a small amount of incense near to the foot of the cross. The incense rising around the cross can provide a wonderful visual and ’nazal’ illustration. The nurses at the care home said they enjoyed the aroma!]
When I was a boy, singing in the Choir at my local church, I was never quite sure why some churches used incense, and some churches did not. I can remember occasions when the smell of burning incense felt warm and familiar. I can remember other occasions when the smell of burning incense was simply overpowering.
In our short Bible reading we are taken to an occasion when the author (King David) is praying a desperate prayer to God. His life is in danger, but he fixes his spiritual eyes upon the Lord. He calls out to God; he calls out to the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, and he prays,
“…come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you.”
When we pray, whatever our situation, and whatever our circumstances, God hears our voice when we call to him. Whatever your situation, whatever your needs, God hears your voice as you call to him. Jesus said that God, His Father, will give us whatever we ask for in His (Jesus’) name.
The prayer in the Psalm continues:
“May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
When this Psalm was written, 3500 years ago, incense was a regular feature in worship. Our prayers today rise before God like a pleasant aroma; a sweet smell of incense.
Perhaps for some of you it is more helpful to think of the smell of your favourite flower. Imagine the pleasure that your favourite smell gives to you.
As we pray, as we come before God with trust and especially with the name of Jesus on our lips, our prayers give great pleasure to God.
As you offer your prayers to God today, in Jesus’ name, your prayer comes before him as a sweet and pleasant aroma. No wonder God loves to answer our prayers. Amen!