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Prayer rises like incense





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Prayer Rises Like Incense

Throughout the Bible there are many images of incense being a symbol of prayer rising to God. The following session is designed using incense as the central focus for the group's prayer rising to God. If you are able to use an incense burner that can sit in the centre of the group so much the better. On the other hand you could use a fondue bowl with some 'potpourri'. Check that there is no smoke alarm that might be activated by the use of incense! Whatever you do - do check it out with the group in advance, because some people do find incense difficult.

Since the aid for our intercession is intended to be the incense it would be helpful if the room was dark so that only the incense can be seen. If you meet for prayer in the setting of a splendid church, which has a sense of the otherness of God then so much the better. Furthermore if you find yourself in such a setting you might all face 'east' - something not often done today.


You may like to have some majestic music quietly in the background during the exercise provided it is used with great sensitivity. Music recorded from the Orthodox Liturgy might be appropriate.

Focus on the majesty of God

Reading: Revelation 8:3-4

'Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. A large quantity of incense was given to him to offer with all the prayers of the saints on the golden altar that stood in front of the throne; and so from the angel's hand the smoke of the incense went up in the presence of God and with it the prayers of all the saints.'

First imagine yourself in the intimate presence of God in all his splendour - you might reflect on some of the imagery used in the Book of Revelation recalling the majesty of God and the dazzling light (Rev. 4). God surrounded by twenty-four elders with golden bowls full of incense made of the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8).

Allow plenty of time for this and after a period of silence and/or music say the song of the four animals:

'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the almighty:
he was, he is and he is to come'.

Focus on the immensity of prayers rising before God

Reading: Malachi 1:11

'From farthest east to farthest west my name is honoured among the nations and everywhere a sacrifice of incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering too, since my name is honoured among the nations, says the Lord Sabaoth.'

Now imagine throughout the earth the intercessions rising up to the throne of God. In your mind hear the groaning of millions of people - the groans of the living and the groans of the departed (Rev. 6:9-11) - ten thousand times ten thousand of them and thousands upon thousands (Rev. 5:11). Sense the immensity of prayer before God's throne by the communion of saints.

Silence and/or background music.

'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the almighty:
he was, he is and he is to come'.

Now offer your intercessions

Reading: Psalm 141:2

'Let my prayer rise before you like incense
And my hands like an evening offering.'

As you name before God your particular concern you might like to place a few grains of incense on the burner or light a candle and place it beside the burner and repeat the phrase from psalm 141:2

'Let my prayer rise before you like incense
And my hands like an evening offering.'

Silence and/or background music.

End the prayer group by saying:

Canticle from Revelation 15:3-4

Great and wonderful are your deeds Lord God the Almighty: just and true are your ways O king of the nations.

Who shall not revere and praise your name O Lord? for you alone are holy.

All nations shall come and worship in your presence: for your just dealings have been revealed.

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb: be praise and honour glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.