This morning, I wrote these words to a friend…
“I know what it is like to be separated long and far from those you love at a time when you’d do everything in your power to be there. Everything. Your whole body and soul ache to be present to love, to hug, to listen, to share. Be assured of this: The prayers that you are praying and the hope that you hold dear are treasured and so acceptable to not only those you want to be with but to your God as well….”
There have been times, actually many times over my ten plus years of missionary life, when I have wanted to be so much closer to my family and friends during a significant life development that warranted so much more in my mind than an email of support, message of condolence or Facebook post. The ministry of presence blesses the heart and nurtures the soul like nothing else. Yet, the oceanic and continental divides often are too great a distance to overcome. I cannot be where I would long to be.
My friend is in a situation right now that warrants healing, rest and recovery. That’s my friend’s assigned task at the moment. My friend needs to get better. That’s my friend’s oceanic divide.
We all have times when we would like to be more physically present or be able to do something more when someone we love is experiencing loss, pain, suffering, or something equally challenging or heart-rendering.
Such times call us to bend our knees for our prayers to ascend.
The Lord recognizes and honors such prayers.
It is written in His word, “And when he (Jesus Christ) had taken it (the scroll), the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” New International Version, Revelation 5:8
The frankincense and sweet smelling odors offered up at this holy tabernacle were emblematic of the prayers and praises of our Lord Jesus Christ through the prayers of His saints on earth. These prayers ascended into the throne room of God Himself to be presented to Him in beautiful bowls of stunning gold.
Psalm 141:2 affirms the ascent of prayer in this way:
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Such are these kinds of prayers – the greatest of gift offerings to the Lord – wrought from the core of our being, pure and true in intent, uttered in faith and resolute trust in Christ and hewn in gold. These are abounding prayers. For the containers that hold them are full, burgeoning with life-giving, soul empowering prayers for the salvation of man, for the needs of man, for the cause of Christ, for the praise of God, and for His will to be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven! Each prayer ascends to the merciful and compassionate throne of our Holy and Wondrous God.
Praise be to God!
Our prayers are presented in resplendent glory and with great honor to our God and King!
Honestly, this gives me both great comfort and even greater purpose in my prayer life.
As I shared, I am not able to be present in the lives of those I love across the oceans and continents at every point of need.
What can I do?
I can pray.
I can pray for their encouragement.
I can pray for their joy.
I can pray for their comfort.
I can pray for their health and healing.
I can pray for their family.
I can pray for their hurting hearts.
I can pray for their courage and strength.
I can pray for their conviction.
And as I pray according to the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, every single prayer rises beyond me and is lifted on high before the throne of God! It is here where He will listen, respond, and help according to His time and purpose.
So, take hope, my friend.
We may not always be where we want to be.
However, the prayers we utter on behalf of those we love, bless them and in turn honor our God like nothing else in heaven or on earth!
That is the grace of a loving and holy God!
That is the love and mercy of a compassionate Savior!
That is the powerful gift of an ascending prayer!