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Bowls, Bottles and Books

Have you ever found it hard to find the right words to pray when praying for Ireland? Beyond praying for specific issues – friends, family – is the awareness of the “big issues” such as the Church, politics, the youth, the cultural divides and also the need for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival power. I believe, regarding the latter, that nothing else will suffice, and yet I am finding that there are only a certain number of ways or words that one can use to do this, and even those seem inadequate. One is left to carry it, very acutely at times, as “the burden of the Lord” and to ask deep heartfelt questions that men like Habakkuk in the Old Testament have also asked – “How long, O Lord?” (Hab. 1:2), knowing like him, that God doesn’t always give an immediate answer.

To embrace the heart of God for any issue is a most privileged thing, which brings with it an awesome sense of responsibility to be faithful to it, realising that it is first of all His burden and that He is involving us in the process of bringing His purposes from heaven to earth. When God did answer Habakkuk, it must have spurred him on to continue in prayer: “Look… Be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days, that you would not believe even if you were told” (v.15). The burden of the Lord is an indicator of His intent. What an incredible thought!!

The issue of why God does not answer our prayers as quickly as we would wish is a huge one. It’s good to remind ourselves that as we intercede, the scriptures indicate that our prayers accumulate. In Revelation 5:8 we read that there are bowls in heaven in which our prayers are stored: “And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.” We don’t know how many there are. Does each of us have our own bowl? Or is there one bowl for each intercessory issue that God calls us to carry, individually or collectively? Are they literal or symbolic? In a sense, it doesn’t matter. The principle is that God can store our prayers to be answered at the proper time.

A similar thought is shared with us by David in Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (New Living Translation). Other translations use words like – worries, concerns etc., – but, I do not think it is stretching the point too much, to include our intercessions in there. I somehow imagine a big room in heaven with floor to floor shelving in it and on those shelves in alphabetical order are bottles with our names on them and the issue we have been asked to pray for written underneath. I also see in that room a large ledger (as in Revelation 5:8 above) which records those tears. Perhaps it reads something like this: “Today, (put the relevant date in here) 2021, _________ wept 5mls of tears for the young people of Ireland.” Those tears have joined with others for them, in the relevant bottle on the shelf. My question is, “When will the records say – ENOUGH?” One thing I do know, whatever the issue is, those prayers are not wasted!! God is watching until they are finally full!! And then…?

Thank You, Father, for the privilege of partnering with You to bring Your Kingdom reign from Heaven to earth. Thank You that as we embrace the “burden of the Lord,” that it is a declaration of intent, from Your throne room to us!

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