“and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel”
“and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints on the golden alter, rose before the throne”
The “prayers of the saints”, have been collected by an angel, and offered on a golden altar. Prayer in the bible is resistant to erosion by time. Once prayed, prayers exist as “things” entities, perhaps not in a physical sense but in an entirely real spiritual sense. John is describing an angel who has collected prayers over time and are now presented to and pleasing to God.
I’m sure we have all made petitionary prayer for something we really desired, and perhaps even thought granting that request would be so logical or beneficial that it was certain to be granted.
I’m sure this would have applied to Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1) who had no child, for “Elizabeth was barren” which in those days was considered a terrible affliction. They had offered numerous prayers, Im sure, but now they were both too old for children, being “advanced in years”.
As Zechariah was serving in the temple, an angel appeared to him and said
“your prayer has been heard, and your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call him John”.
So too with Abraham and Sara, who were nearing 100, when eventually they were granted their request.
Im not sure why the Lord works this way, perhaps to exercise our faith in our prayers, like developing spiritual muscles in preparation for our eternal future. Yet as with Zechariah/ Elizabeth and Abraham/ Sara, the gifts they received, John the Baptist and Isaac, were men who changed history. Our prayers are never forgotten.
Help me Lord to realise anew, the importance and power of prayer, and to use my time each day, to eternally invest in prayer with you.