The Genius of Prayer

Prayer As Eternal – E.M. Bounds, 19th century minister and author, is quoted as saying the following:

“Prayers are deathless. The lips that uttered them may close in death, the heart that felt them may cease to beat, but the prayers live before God. God’s heart is set on them. Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, out live an age, outlive a world…Fortunate are they whose fathers…have left them a wealthy patrimony [legacy] of prayer.”

What E.M. Bounds is saying is that our prayers extend past our very lives on earth. They never cease from their intended purpose. They are among the treasures laid up in Heaven (Mat 6:19-21). Rev 5:8 says that the prayers of the saints are collected in golden bowls and they are ever before God. They remain there eternally in the prayer rooms of Heaven, along with the prayers of the ages, prayed by all the ancients and up to this very day. Our prayers never leave God’s presence. They are like perfumed incense arising as a sweet aroma to God. We ought never leave the prayer rooms of Heaven bereft of our heartfelt prayers.

More incredibly, God is able to discern between every prayer separately, within the vaporous clouds and aromas of incense that fill Heaven’s prayer rooms. It can happen just as “the word of God is alive and powerful; sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, [discerning] between soul and spirit, joint and marrow” (Heb 4:12). Just so, our Lord, who intercedes for us (Heb 7:25), is able to discern, is eternally mindful of and joins his intercessions to our prayers. Our God is in eternal awareness of all our prayers, the prayers of every saint through all the ages. That is the genius of prayer.

Scripture tells us that the Tabernacle, constructed by Moses, foreshadows the Heavenly sanctuary not built with human hands (Exo 25:9; Heb 8:5; 9:23,24). Within the Tabernacle there stands (among other furnishings) the Altar of Incense. It is the place of prayer. It is where the high priest stood to pray in the Tabernacle. The incense from that altar filled the Tabernacle. In the same way, the prayers of the saints arise as a sweet aroma before God into the prayer rooms of Heaven (Rev 5:8; 8:3,4). 

On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter the Holy Place in the Tabernacle and sprinkle the blood spilled by sacrifices for sin at the Brazen Altar on the Altar of Incense. There he would pray for the forgiveness of his sin and the sins of the people. But now Jesus, having spilled his own blood as a sacrifice for our sin on the cross of Calvary, has become our eternal High Priest. He himself has covered all our sin by his own blood sacrifice, once for all time. He stands forever before the Heavenly Altar of Incense. He has become our constant intercessor. “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf. He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven” (Heb 7:25,26). Jesus is forever interceding for us before the Father.

It occurs to me that when we pray, we enter into a triune fellowship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – they are forever and eternally offering prayers for the saints in Heaven (Rom 8:26,34). When we pray, we enter into an eternal prayer meeting that was already in progress within the Godhead. It was going on long before we got there and it will continue, long after we have spoken our “Amen” exit from the session. The Godhead is ceaselessly and eternally working in ways and places we cannot even imagine to answer our prayers. Things happen when we pray that would not have happened had we not prayed. 

When we pray the breath that carries our words, energized and transmitted by the Holy Spirit, stirs the thin veil between earth and the prayer rooms of Heaven. The incoming prayers of the saints stirs Heaven’s veil in continuous motion, like a wispy window curtain gently waves before the incoming summer breezes.


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