The altar of incense, which was a piece of furniture in the Holy Place in the tabernacle and later the temple, has valuable teaching regarding the prayer life of God’s people.
Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.”
Revelation 8:3-5: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him MUCH INCENSE that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.”
We read about the altar of incense in both the Old and New Testaments. I say this to counteract the argument that the “golden altar of incense” has no application for God’s people in the New Testament.
The first mention of this altar in the New Testament was when Zacharias, the future father of John the Baptist was attending to his duties of priesthood, i.e. the burning of incense at the golden altar.
According to the custom of the priestly office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. As he lit the incense, the whole multitude of the people prayed outside the temple at the same time.
We read in Luke 1:9-11: “According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.”
Although Zacharias still operated under the Old Covenant, we observe how the congregation of the people prayed at the time of the burning of the incense.
There has perhaps never been a more important time in the history of this nation than right now for God’s people to pray. Our nation and the world is in a very critical time and only God can help us.