“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
We’ve had a rough week. Yeah, another one. This time I actually shared my heart with some more people than I did last time. Interesting social experiment, I’m realizing (although that wasn’t my intent). I’m finding that when one shares the details of some family drama or crisis they are experiencing, the responses from the listeners will fall into one of a few different categories: some will offer their own advice on what they would do if their kid had screwed up so royally, some will maybe find the issue too big and scary or too alien to their own experiences that they can’t relate so they just offer a sympathetic shake of the head and an “I’m sorry” or “You’ll be in my thoughts,” some listen with their hearts and then share their own stories with you letting you know that they (or their kid) has also led a dark and dangerous life at one time and made it through to become upstanding, respectable citizens. Then there are the people who do all that they can to empathize and even take it a step further by offering prayer and scripture. Finally! Something I can use!
A good friend sent me a blog post written by a mother in a situation very similar to mine. It was so similar to mine, I’m now beginning to wonder if she hijacked my story or plagiarized it or was following me around for the past three years. No, just kidding. But still. . .one has to wonder. Anyway, my friend loved me enough to send me this post that didn’t “should” me but gave insights into her own experience and what worked for her and, even better, what God taught her through it. She quoted Revelation 5:8:
“. . .the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
How beautiful is that! How did I not see it before? Do you know who those saints are? We are the saints. Followers of Christ are those saints. This verse says that my prayers become incense in golden bowls. Those prayers, my prayers, flow up to God when I offer Him the concerns of my heart. I had never considered my prayers in this way. Over the years, I’ve changed the way I pray. I’ve learned that God is not some cosmic Santa Claus waiting for me to send Him my wish list so He can give me everything I want without regard for what God deems best for me. I’ve learned to seek His will before my own (“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Not my kingdom come, my will be done). I’ve learned that his thoughts are higher than mine, His ways not mine. So hopefully, I’ve progressed to the point where I’m not pestering Him too much or throwing spiritual temper tantrums. Ok, who am I kidding? I have my own book of lamentations. Point is, forward is forward, right people?
So I read the verses about golden bowls and wanted to hold fast to that image, wanted to have it ever before me, wanted to plaster it as my background image on my laptop screen. So I googled it. A number of images came up of shiny ancient golden bowls, and then a picture came up that I didn’t expect. It was a picture of the famous photo “Grace” by Eric Enstrom. Somewhere around 1918, Enstrom photographed an elderly man who appears to be praying over a simple meal. Why did this image appear when I searched for images of golden bowls? Because Google seemed to make the connection between the Revelation reference and the photo. That man sitting at the table offering thanks for the loaf of bread and the bowl of soup or asking God for forgiveness or lamenting a prodigal child is filling golden bowls. If he has faith, he knows that God will honor those prayers even as they offer Him, our Heavenly Father, a sweet aroma.