27th January 2017
Where is the best example of a prayer altar in the Bible? The tabernacle of Moses (which later became the plan for the temple) travelled with the children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land. Below is a simple diagram of the tabernacle:
There were two altars in the tabernacle:
1. The Altar of Burnt Offerings located in the outer courtyard and
2. The Altar of Incense in the Holy Place
Incense is a picture of prayer. David said, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2). We also see prayer when Zechariah was chosen to offer incense in the temple, “And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense” (Luke 1:10).
The altar of incense was indeed a prayer altar but we no longer use altars or burn incense when we pray. There is a New Testament prayer altar in Revelation 8:3-4: “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.” Our prayers on earth (which sometimes seem feeble and incomplete) are like incense at the altar in heaven!
There is one more thing about prayer altars found in Hebrews 13:10, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.” In the Old Testament, the priests got their food from the altar of sacrifice. A portion of the offerings was set aside for them to eat. Hebrews tells us that we also receive food at the prayer altar. The proof of this is in Luke 11, where Jesus taught His disciples about prayer in three different ways.
First he taught them the Lord’s prayer which includes the request “Give us day by day our daily bread” (v. 5). Then he told a parable about a woman who went to her neighbour’s house at midnight with this request: “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him” (vv. 5-6). Finally, he tells a story about a son asking his father for “bread,” “a fish” and “an egg” (vv. 11-12). In each of these teachings about prayer, food is involved! God prepares a meal for us in the place of prayer.
Many believers miss out on this most nourishing aspect of prayer. The food is prepared and we never partake! Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32 NIV). Let me encourage you to find out about this food! There is a feast waiting for you at the prayer altar so taste and see that prayer is much more enjoyable and fulfilling than you may have realised!
Hungry for more,