Do you ever wonder if prayer does anything? There are times I wonder if my prayers even reach God’s ears. If they do, I sometimes wonder if God is really listening. There have been long periods in my Christian life when I have found God to be very silent. At those times, I have felt that God was distant and removed from my situation. Nothing is more discouraging than to pray and pray about a matter only to see nothing happen. Or, to have things go worse than before we prayed! We already saw in chapter 6 that the souls under the altar of God where shouting for God to do something about the suffering and persecution that was happening to the churches. They asked the question, “How much longer…?” Have you ever asked that question of God? There are times when our patience is stretched very thin.
Now in chapter 8, the lamb opens the seventh seal. And what do we get… more silence! For a ½ hour, it says, all heaven was still. But this silence was pregnant with anticipation. It seems that something was now going to happen. God is going to act. What moved God to act was the smell of incense and the prayers of the saints. The prayers of the saints are mixed with incense and placed before the throne of God. The angel in front of God takes the censer and fills it with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth causing “crashes of thunder, loud rumblings, lightening, and an earthquake” (v. 5). What am image of the release of the power of God and the power of prayer! God had been listening. God planned to act. The timing had to be right. The moment of decision was God’s to determine. But, then, after waiting… in response to the prayers of the saints… fire is hurled to the earth. The judgment of God comes with dramatic display of natural forces.
Have you ever thought of prayer as fire hurled to the earth? I have a story that I rarely tell. I don’t tell it often because I don’t quite comprehend it and it is somewhat disturbing. When I was a pastor in NJ, a mother came to me for advice about how to pray for a worrying situation. A neighbor was influencing her teenaged children. He was a known drug-abused and drug-dealer. She had instructed her teens to stay away from the guy and prayed for them to make the right decisions. They seemed, however, to be strangely captivated by him. She felt the situation was getting dire. Frantically, she asked me how to pray about the situation. A thought came to me regarding how to pray. I had never given this kind of advice before or after this situation. The thought was this – renounce the spiritual power over this young man and the power he holds over her children. Pray that the young man would either turn his life over to God or, if that was not going to happen, pray that God would protect her children by any means possible. I, then, prayed with her to that effect over the phone. Two days later, the young man was found in his home dead. He had overdosed on cocaine and heroin. The mother called me that very evening and asked, “Did our prayers kill him?” I truly don’t know the answer. I do, however, have a vivid illustration of how prayer can be like fire hurled to the earth.