Revelation 5:8+ describes “golden bowls full of INCENSE, which are the PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS” “on the golden altar which is before the Throne.” (Rev 8:3+) Now observe carefully that in the Rev 5:9+ John describes “men from EVERY TRIBE and TONGUE and PEOPLE and NATION.” From this context we can discern a relationship between SUPPLICATION in Rev 5:8+ and SAVED SOULS in Rev 5:9. Clearly, our prayers for the salvation of the souls of others are safely “stored in a bowl” in Heaven! Our prayers like incense have ascended to the very Throne Room of Heaven! This indeed is amazing grace!
Herbert Lockyer wrote that
“The true odors (fragrant incense in bowls in heaven) are the heart-prayers of God’s children…Every prayer which broke out in a sob from an agonizing heart, every sigh of the solitary and struggling Christian, every groan of those groping Godward, mingles here with the songs of the happy and triumphant.”
In the golden bowls (Rev 5:8+) are the fragrant prayers of saints awaiting answers.
“For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even YOU, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For YOU are our glory and joy.” (1 Thes 2:19-20+)
Of whom is Paul speaking? The Thessalonian believers! In God’s great plan of redemption He allowed Paul to play a role in their salvation. And when we share the Gospel and pray in the Spirit for others to be born again by the glorious Gospel, we too are storing up for ourselves “treasures (note the plural) in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:20-21+)
J Vernon McGee sums up 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 by asking "is anyone going to be in heaven who will come up to you and thank you for having a part in giving out the Word of God? Have you given your support to missions? If you have, someone you have never known, someone from the other side of the earth, may come up to you and thank you for your support of missions. He will thank you for being interested in getting out the Word of God because the Word reached him and enabled him to be saved. That, my friend, is going to be part of the reward that we will get in heaven. We need to recognize that. It is a wonderful hope to look forward to the time when Christ Jesus takes the church out of this world. It is even more joyous to know that someone who trusted Christ because of your witness will go along with you to meet the Lord! (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
A GLOBAL INVESTMENT - Pastor Michael Andrus says "Now this investing can be done either indirectly or directly. Whenever you give money to a Bible-believing local church where the Gospel is preached, you are indirectly using your money to make eternal friends, even if you never get to know them personally. Whenever you give to a parachurch organization that has as one of its basic goals the winning of lost people to Christ, you are indirectly using your money to make eternal friends. Whenever you give to an effective missionary, whether at home or abroad, you are using your money to make friends for God. I am not a wealthy man by most standards, but I do have a global investment portfolio. When I get to heaven, I expect to be greeted by some French believers. I have never met them, but my wife and I invested monthly for twelve years in the ministry of Jim and Diane Brower, our best friends in college, while they were missionaries in the northern suburbs of Paris. I also have investments in southern Mexico, in Venezuela, and in Tatarstan, where other missionaries we have supported work in God's vineyard. I have investments in Vermont and Huntington, Utah and Portland and Fort Myers, Fl where men I have mentored are carrying on effective ministries. Some of my investments are in a mutual fund, called the First Free Missions budget. It allows me to have a small investment everywhere our church has missionaries and outreach. Another mutual fund is Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. As I give to that great seminary, which I do every year, I am investing in every local church, every Bible School, and every mission where it's graduates eventually end up serving! "(Sermon on Luke 16:1-9 Money–Godly Ways of Giving It: A Bad Man's Good Example)
These truths should encourage us to pray without ceasing (1 Th 5:17+) for every soul in our sphere of influence. God’s answer may be delayed as it was in my case on two occasions – On the first, my father prayed for my salvation daily for 20 years and one day at age 39 I called him and told him God had saved me and it was then that he told me that God had answered his prayers which he had prayed for 20 years! In the second instance, I prayed for my son for 20 years and about 4 years ago God answered and saved his soul and granted him sobriety for the first time in his life. If you are praying for loved ones, may my two “twenty year experiences” encourage you to “keep on keeping on!”
You can count on it — God stores our prayers in a bowl in Heaven. Beloved may God’s Spirit enable you to continue steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord in praying for souls of lost loved ones and hidden people groups (see below), knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor 15:58+). Matthew Henry has remarked that “Prayers of faith are filed in Heaven; and, though not presently answered, are not forgotten.” Amen and Amen!
HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUPS ("Unreached People Groups") are those groups unreached by the Gospel and lack enough followers of Christ and resources to evangelize their own people. In 1980 there 16000 such groups, but God has answered the cries of His children for the lost souls in these groups and today (2018) that number has been reduced to about 7000. What is shocking is that there are still a number of unreached groups, especially in India, that have literally millions of souls and not a single believer has been reported in those groups! Jesus’ words still ring loud and clear 2000 years later – “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (John 4:35) Based on Rev 5:8-9, followers of Jesus can intercede TODAY for souls to be harvested from among the remaining unreached Hidden People groups and know their prayers will be effective in bringing souls to eternal salvation for in Rev 5:9 John describes souls from EVERY tribe, tongue, people and nation before the Throne of God. The secret of reaching men is to know the secret of reaching God. And a significant component of that “secret” is being faithful to speak to God about the redemption of lost souls.
Would you consider storing up for yourself treasure in heaven daily for the rest of your life (Mt 6:20+)? Can I encourage you to take a step of faith and believe that God will hear your prayers for HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUPS, will store those prayers in a bowl in Heaven and that one day in eternity you will meet those for whom you have been praying day after day, year after year?
While the battle is the Lord’s, we as His soldiers are still called to march forth on our knees. And in light of that truth let us apply the famous words of Winston Churchill to our battle for souls against our inveterate, invisible enemy…
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” (from his speech given in October, 1941)
Indeed “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12+) Our adversary does not care how much we read about prayer for the lost if only he can hinder us from praying for them!
Here is an easy way to pray for the HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUPS daily – bookmark Joshua Project and/or download the APP from Joshua Project and select "daily notifications" and you will receive a daily text reminder with the name of the hidden people group for that day. See also the related link for Global Prayer Digest.
Several years ago I was pleasantly surprised to read Pastor John Piper’s words related to prayer for hidden people groups…
“To help (us) stay encouraged to pray for huge Christ-exalting movements of God….each day, as part of our family devotions, Noël and Talitha and I read the daily reading from the Global Prayer Digest….Would you join me in praying sweeping, global prayers that God would glorify Jesus by opening the eyes of millions of (hidden peoples) to see and savor the truth and beauty of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for the justification and jubilation of millions of “other sheep” that are not yet in the fold?”
Pastor Steven Cole also made a reference to his personal use of the Global Prayer Digest...
To be obedient to Christ’s command, we need to send missionaries to these many unreached groups around the world. Even if we saw thousands come to Christ in Flagstaff, unless we cross linguistic and cultural barriers with the gospel, there will still be two billion unreached people who have no opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ. So we must have our focus on the lost people groups of the world. Pray for them to be reached. For years, our family has used the “Global Prayer Digest” a monthly prayer guide for the unreached peoples of the world. Support missionaries committed to reaching these unreached groups. Instill a vision for missions in your children. Be open to God’s leading you to go. We should begin in our Jerusalem, but our eyes should be on the whole world. (Sermon on Luke 24:44-49)
Now even if you forget to read the full entry for the HIDDEN PEOPLE GROUP of the day, the APP will send you a text so you never have to miss a day praying for lost souls who have never heard the Name of Jesus (Acts 4:12+) and the good news of His saving Gospel (Ro 1:16+).
Beloved, this is your “once in a lifetime opportunity!” Praying for souls is something we can only do now on earth and is an exciting, rewarding way to redeem our short time on earth for our eternity in heaven! Indeed, if you (energized by the Spirit) pray now, your time in Heaven will be marvelously magnified by the presence of those you took time to pray for on earth! Don’t procrastinate! Don’t delay! Bookmark the two sites and download their APPS today (see links below).
David Brainerd, the missionary to the American Indians, understood the need to redeem the time by praying for hidden peoples writing in his diary “This morning about nine I withdrew to the woods for prayer. I was in such anguish that when I arose from my knees I felt extremely weak and overcome….I cared not how or where I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls for Christ.” Brainerd redeemed the time until God took him home at age 29, where he will experience joy forever over the treasures of native American souls in heaven because of his prayers!
If Paul were speaking to us today he might say something like this “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL PEOPLE (aka “hidden people”), and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal 6:10+) Today is your “opportunity of a lifetime!” May our prayer be “Lord, burn eternity into our eyeballs!”
And may our Father in Heaven grant you amazing grace by His Spirit to be energized and motivated to intercede for peoples you have never seen but will one day see in the presence of the Lamb that was slain and Who Alone is Worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev 5:12+). Amen.
Faith asks no signal from the skies,
To show that prayers accepted rise,
Our Priest is in His holy place,
And answers from the Throne of Grace.
Daniel wrote that
“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3+)
“May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” In Jesus’ Name. Amen (Psalm 141:2)
To paraphrase Paul – Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time…that God will open up a door for the Word, so that missionaries may speak forth the mystery of Christ” so that the Spirit of Christ might rescue those who are perishing. (cf Col 4:2-3+)
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.