Prayer is the way God invites us to communicate directly with Him. The altar of incense was a symbol of the prayers of the people that ever ascend before the throne of God. It was placed before the veil in the holy place. The priests came to this place to offer incense (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 333) which rose over the veil into the most holy place where God’s throne was located above the mercy seat. The incense represented the “prayers of the saints” (Rev 8:3-4). In ancient times priests brought the incense before the people twice a day (vss. 7-8), but it filled the room and offered a perpetual intercession before the throne (Ps. 16:8; 55:17; Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 354). This was a lesson for the ancient Israelites then and for us today that we may open and close our days in prayer and that access to His throne of grace is continual.
We may “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) knowing that Jesus stands as our high priest before the throne of God. With our prayers which ascend before God’s throne “Christ mingles with them the merits of His own life of perfect obedience. Our prayers are made fragrant by this incense. Christ has pledged Himself to intercede in our behalf, and the Father always hears the Son.” (Sons and Daughters of God, p.22). This rich picture illustrates the truth that our prayers bring us into the very presence of God and are joined with those of Christ, our High Priest, who fulfilled the role of the Old Testament types and now intercedes in our behalf. This is good news for all today - we need no earthly intercessor, but we all have equal access to the power of the Creator of the Universe who has promised that He “will hear us” (1 Jn 5:14).
School of Religion
Southern Adventist University