When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
There was silence in heaven for about half an hour? -What is that all about?
Early in the passage we read of the buzz and noise of heaven, a cacophony of praise, when suddenly there is a hush… silence, Why? -the answer is later on in the passage- The saints are praying.
God and the whole company of heaven are listening attentively to the prayers of the Saints.
Just as when I want to give my daughter my undivided attention, I stop work or turn off the television so she knows she has my full concentration; so heaven listens without distraction to the prayers of the saints.
But who are the Saints?
We often think Saints are these emaciated ethereal people with bizarre halo’s in stained glass windows.
Yet Saints literally means “the Holy ones of God” .
Yet we don’t always feel like “Holy Ones of God” yet because of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection we are declared Holy, not because of what we have done but because what Christ has won for us.
We are God’s Holy people. We are all Saints (which is unfortunate if your name is Bernard!)
So, this passage tells us that when we pray, the whole of heaven is listening to every word.
Our prayers bring heaven to a stand-still.
The passage continues to talk about the prayers of the Saints rising up like incense towards heaven. Incense is an ancient symbol of prayer rising to God’s nostrils, a beautiful smell that God enjoys and brings him pleasure. A bit like returning home to the smell of your mums roast dinner, the idea of our mouth watering, salivating with expectation. So God is longing, aching with anticipation to hear from his beloved children.
Yet as the prayers rise up before an attentive God, we see heaven’s response to our prayers.
We see our prayers our powerful and impacting the world.
To often we have bought the cliches about “prayer changes us” and about “us becoming the answers to our prayers (true but it does far more than that too) and sometimes we are so used to bland prayers that it often feels like prayer is sharing our wishful thinking with God, when it is so so much (much) more than this.
Prayer changes situations.
Prayer changes people,
Prayer changes us.
Prayer changes the world.
Our prayer sees heaven respond in power.
Heaven responding with peels of thunder.
Earthquake, literally transforming the face of the earth irrevocably.
And lightening, pure intense light touching the earth and removing darknesses.
So, we see a God desperate to hear from us, enjoying and excited just the anticipation of our prayers and heaven responding in power.
So, in light of this, let us pray with boldness and expectation for God’s goodness to break and shine through.