Ask Your Preacher
What about mixing incense with the prayers of God's people? I try not to get caught up into things which I don't understand until I get further understanding. One Sunday, our pastor brought into the sanctuary a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, and he walked around the sanctuary with incense like the Catholics do; we are not Catholic. Then he said we were to write down prayers and place them in this replica of the Ark of the Covenant. It still sits there today; now he says that he is going to burn those written prayers since its been eighty-one days, and they will ascend unto God. And then he said he’s going to do the same practice again. Can you tell me if this ritual is practiced today and what he is doing? And should I participate in this? I didn't before.
This is definitely not a New Testament practice… nor is it an Old Testament practice for that matter! The Bible teaches that our prayers are the incense God wants to receive (Ps 141:2, Rev 8:4). We never see the New Testament church burning incense as a form of worship, and the only people who were allowed to burn incense in the Old Testament were descendants of the high priest, Aaron (Num 4:16, 1 Sam. 2:28). This preacher is adding to God’s Word and is absolutely in the wrong (Rev 22:18-19).
Does God get sad if you don't pray some nights and just go to sleep because you’re tired?
That is a tricky question because the Bible never tells us exactly when we must pray. For example, the Bible never says, “You must pray at bedtime.” We have examples of people praying at all sorts of different times. The principle is that we should have a habit of praying (1 Thess 5:17). Dan 6:10 talks about Daniel having the custom of praying to God three times a day. It isn’t about one prayer missed or made; it is about building a lifestyle of prayer.
Does God always hear our prayers?
Who is praying and how they pray matters. God says that a righteous man’s prayers do a great deal of good (Jas 5:16). That would by default mean that an unrighteous man’s prayers wouldn’t do much, if any, good at all. God told Israel that their ungodly lifestyles meant that He wouldn’t hear their prayers at all! (Isa 1:15) There are other things that will stop your prayers from being heard:
- Treating your spouse badly (1 Pet 3:7)
- Praying for “show” (Lk 20:47)
- Praying selfishly (Jas 4:3)
- Praying without gratitude (Col 4:2)
There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that we should examine ourselves before approaching God in prayer. A wrong attitude or lifestyle can seriously jeopardize our prayers effectiveness. The flip is also true though! Proper attitudes and behavior are rewarded:
- Asking for wisdom (Jas 1:5)
- Consistency (1 Thess 5:17)
- Godly living (Jas 5:16)
- Asking without doubt (Jas 1:6)
When we are constantly praying, trusting in God’s strength to answer, humbly seeking his wisdom, and living lives that befit God’s servants, we can expect powerful results! Prayer is perhaps one of the greatest tools in a Christian’s arsenal (perhaps also one of the least utilized). The Bible is how God speaks to us; prayer is how we speak to Him. Just like a child asking their parent for a privilege – how we approach God makes all the difference.
I pray everyday and sometimes feel like I'm sayings the same things, asking for the same things, giving thanks for the same things. It seems all so repetitive even though I pray from my heart. I wonder if God thinks the same thing sometimes, and it kind of weighs heavy on my heart. Can you help me with this? I can't imagine not talking to Him everyday just because I worry that I'm being repetitive.
It’s Me Again
Dear It’s Me Again,
Feel free to pray for the same thing as often as you’d like, but avoid lengthy speeches just for the sake of repetition. If by repetition, you mean that you are saying the same things over and over in hopes that God will listen because you use a lot of words… that is wrong (Matt 6:7).
But if you are praying meaningfully for the same things consistently, that isn’t wrong at all. Jesus gives the example of the widow and the unrighteous judge as the standard for repetition in prayer. In Lk 18:1-7, we are told to always pray and never grow weary in it. Samuel said that he would never cease to pray for the good will of Israel (1 Sam 12:23). Jesus says to pray constantly for our daily bread (Lk 11:3). Both of these are examples of repetitive prayer. Lk 11:5-8 explains that prayer is like constantly knocking at a door until the homeowner gets up to answer. As long as we preface our wishes with a willingness to submit to God’s will (1 Jn 5:14-15) – we should keep on praying.
I’m trying to learn to communicate with God. I know we speak to Him through prayer... so does He speak back to us through the Bible? When I ask for God’s perfect will on a subject, and I ask Him for confirmation in the Bible, and I open it and read on what He says, is the word that I read a promise? Thank you for explaining, and God bless!
Looking For Direction
Dear Looking For Direction,
God speaks to us through His Word. If we want to know God’s desire for our life, we must use the Bible to get our instructions. Faith comes from the Word (Rom 10:17), and the Bible contains all the information we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). If we want to understand what God wants for us, we can find the truth in the sum of His Word (Ps 119:160). It isn’t as simple as just opening the Bible and putting your finger on a page and looking for a sign; the Bible takes study and effort.
God doesn’t answer our prayers by directly speaking to us, but His Word says that we should pray without doubting (1 Tim 2:8) and that we should ask in faith (Jas 1:6). God says there are very few things that will cause Him to ignore our prayers. Read “Whose Prayers Count?” for the list of things that will make God turn His back on your prayers. God never gets tired of hearing from His children. Christians are to constantly seek Him in prayer. The most direct example of this is Christ’s parable of the unjust judge in Lk 18:1-5. Christ taught that parable, so “men ought always to pray and not to grow weary”. God wants to hear from His people. So don’t stop asking for help; He is listening.