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Jeremy Ham, AiG–U.S., explains the relationship between incense and prayer in the Bible.
“For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)
Today’s big question: how will incense be offered to God in every place?
In the previous devotional, we examined the prophecy from Malachi 1:11 about how God’s name would be great as the result of Jesus Christ and what He has done for all nations. Jesus fulfilled the promise of an unblemished, sacrificial lamb to save the world, and now God’s name can be preached to all nations.
We found from other passages of Scripture that the biblical response is one of praise to the Lord. Malachi 1:11 gives a specific example of how God’s name will be great—“In every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering.” As we study this particular Scripture, we will find this promise has been fulfilled as well.
First, we should define what the Lord means by incense, and the best place to figure out the meaning is God’s Word:
Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. (Psalm 141:2)
Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. (Revelation 8:3–4)
In both cases, incense related to the offering up of prayers to the Lord. Offering up evening prayers was a custom among Israelites. These passages give us a strong indication that incense is also referring to prayer in Malachi 1:11. The verse also mentions incense will be offered in every place. Worshipping God (which includes prayer) in one particular place was common among the Jews, but Jesus said this will no longer be the case (John 4:20–23).
Furthermore, Paul states, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). Paul may have stated this in response to the Jewish idea that the Temple is the only place to worship God. Since Jesus died on the Cross and was raised up, the Holy Spirit now lives in each and every believer. We are now the temple of God (2 Corinthians 6:16) and can pray anywhere with the help of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26). Praying in every place is another prophecy being fulfilled, thanks to the work of Jesus Christ.
Today’s big idea: we can pray anywhere.
What to pray: thank God that He listens to us no matter where we are located.