May my prayer be set before You as incense,
the raising of my hands as the evening offering.
If a few men become prayer–prayer that is ‘pure’ and to all appearances quite useless–they transform the universe by the sole fact of their presence, by their very existence.
- Olivier Clement
Meditating on this verse from Psalm 141 I consider the properties, the characteristics of incense. It is a small, crude, unattractive lump or stick which, until set afire, doesn’t impact or affect anything or anyone. Yet, when lit its scent and smoke defuses throughout the room permeating the air with thought provoking, energizing smells. Moreover, incense continues affecting us with its lingering scent long after it is consumed by the fire. Hours, even days, later you walk into the room and are brought back to the memories of past actions, desires, and prayers.
Like incense the ancient’s offerings to God served no useful purpose. They were poured out wine, burnt up animals, a waste of resources. To most the raising of my hands to God in prayer and praise serves no purpose, helps none of the hurting and helpless around me, a waste of time–our most precious resource. Yet, God calls us and compels us to worship him with our lives and what are our lives other than time?
I pray my prayers will be “pure” and will have these same lasting, impactful effects on me, our universe, and our God. I pray God will use my prayers, which are “to all appearances quite useless”, to change lives, to change me.
O Lord, may I become prayer!