The Fragrance of Prayer (06-01-21)
On coming to the house, (the Wise Men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:2)
I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, 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 God's people. (Revelation 5:6-10)
We have a couple of bowls of hyacinths in the rectory. I love the smell of hyacinths! It goes back to my childhood when we used to put a dry bulb in the neck of a jar of water and leave it in a dark cupboard until it had lots of roots and a good shoot. We would bring then it out into the light, watch the shoot turn from white to green, and grow and to produce a wonderful flower, full of colour and fragrance.
Fragrances are evocative of people or of places, and incense usually evokes a church at the more catholic end of the spectrum.
Throughout the Old Testament, incense is associated with the priest offering up the prayers of, and for, the people. The gift of frankincense to the infant Jesus was therefore symbolic of him coming as the Great High Priest, who would offer up himself as the final sacrifice for the atonement for our sins. From that time on no other priest, in the Old Testament sense of the role, was needed. We all have access to God and can offer up the heavenly fragrance of prayer and worship.
I wonder if we, as a church, are not a bit like my hyacinth bulb, we have been in the dark, disassociated from normal life. We have grown good roots, but we are pale and have no colour or fragrance.
Our nation and our world are now in darkness. As a church, it is time to come out into the light of Christ and offer up to God our prayers for our hurting world. Let us make time to come before our loving and merciful Heavenly Father on behalf of the sick, the bereaved, the lonely, NHS staff, other key workers, government leaders and scientists, and let us pour out to heaven the beautiful fragrance of prayer.
Lord have mercy on us, come and heal our land.
Cleanse with Your fire, heal with Your touch,
Humbly we bow and call upon You now.
O Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us.