By Jill Briscoe
While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. ~ Luke 1:10 (NLT)
For the Old Testament priest Aaron, his sons, and indeed, for all people, God designed a specific time for prayer. Every morning and evening the priest burned holy incense upon the altar in the tabernacle. This was to be done not only when the people were faced with trials, fears, or death; it was to be offered perpetually - “from generation to generation” (Ex. 30:8). Often, however, we rush to that altar only in times of extremity, anxiety, or perplexity. We don’t practice perpetual praise, and therefore we are not in the habit of giving thanks in all things when trouble comes (Eph. 5:20). But our text from Luke reminds us that the people were praying regularly “while the incense was being burned” - not just in the hour of need!
Jesus told us that His people should pray constantly and never give up (Luke 18:1). “Never stop praying,” echoed the apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5:17).
God designed the altar of incense so that it could be carried by the children of Israel in their desert pilgrimage–a perpetual reminder of their perpetual privilege (Ex. 30:1-10). However, it is worth noting that such prayer was to be a privilege of obedience. God’s rules are rules. He didn’t say, “I’ll meet you there if you like, if you remember, or if you’re desperate!” God told Aaron that “he must burn fragrant incense on the altar” (Ex. 30:7; italics mine). Such perpetual praise is not merely an option for the child of God. It is a simple, sweet necessity, for it glorifies the Lord.
Lord, forgive me for taking the privilege of prayer for granted. Too often I rob my relationship with You by neglecting regular time in the joy of Your presence. Help me to strengthen my life by becoming more obedient in my time of prayer. Amen.