Let My Prayer Rise as Incense

Blessèd are you, God of compassion and mercy,
to you be praise and glory for ever!
In the darkness of our sin,
your light breaks forth like the dawn
and your healing springs up for deliverance.
As we rejoice in the gift of your saving help,
sustain us with your bountiful Spirit
and open our lips to sing your praise,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessèd be God for ever!

From Psalm 141

Let my prayer rise before you as incense,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

O Lord, I call to you; come to me quickly;
hear my voice when I cry to you.
Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord,
and guard the door of my lips.

Let my prayer rise before you as incense,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Let not my heart incline to any evil thing;
let me not be occupied in wickedness.
But my eyes are turned to you, Lord God,
in you I take refuge;
do not leave me defenceless.

Let my prayer rise before you as incense,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Tonight I sat in the stillness of the pews of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake and began my prayers with the words from Celebrating Common Praise (Above). Before I did I lit some incense and placed it by the Sacrament of Jesus. As my burnt offering was consumes, my attention became focused on the image of a wisp of smoke ascending into the air, its fragrance filling the empty church. I became aware of our bare skinned sanctuary, unclad last evening of all fine garments. My ears became aware of the sounds of this vessel called St. Mark’s. I guess I became aware that the church is still but not silent. I do not know what the sounds are but I know they are present and therefore I know that I am not in silence …but I am in stillness. My attention turns back to the visual of rising and redolent incense. I realize that I am not alone.

I am connected to something larger. I may be sitting on oak benches, but I really I am seated on Holy ground. My prayers turn to the myriad voices that had spoken prayers, sung prayers, and proclaimed prayer in the space I was occupying. How many prayers rose to the rafters of this great place of refuge over the years? How many names have been spoken, vows proclaimed, committals performed and baptisms celebrated? How many times has Jesus been called to be present in Bread and Wine? As surely as that fragrance filled the air around me I became aware of how very often the presence of the Divine has surrounded the community of saints at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. This is holy ground!

Then my attention was shifted by the sound of a barking dog way off in the distance. It sounded desperate and afraid. It was as if it was crying out for rescue. So many tonight call out for rescue. So many people feel the pain of Good Friday. So many people are longing to be freed from captivity, healed from sickness, restored to right relationship, and forgiven of sin. So many cry out to be comforted from grief, fed because of hunger and given drink to quench an awful thirst. So I turned my attention to those whose cries can be lost in the chatter of a world preoccupied in self-satisfaction. Cries that are lost in a world which is often casting lots for robes, and hiding from the Love which was poured out for the world for fear of what it might mean to be found out! It occurs to me that the lonely, the broken, the lost, the isolated, the persecuted, the rejected, the forgotten, the ashamed, and all who are hurting tonight need my prayers…and I need theirs!

This is Holy Ground — it is good to be in this place and remember the myriad voices that have filled this sanctuary and give thanks for them. I am grateful for the safety of this sanctuary. It is good to remember the beauty in our place of worship, made more apparent by the absence of all that is colourful. It is good to be in this place and be reminded that there are so many who need my voice to pray. And so I gather all of these together and offer them up. I pray simply that what has passed through my being in these moments may be counted as prayer and that my prayer rise before God as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. I am so grateful for so much! Thank you Jesus!

2 thoughts on “Let My Prayer Rise as Incense

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  1. I sat in front of the banner today after Mass to meditate further on the events of Good Friday. I have no words to express the feeling that came over me other than to say that it was as if the Lord’s arms were wrapped around me. Definitely holy ground and space.

  2. i have a small altar in the corner of my bedroom where I light a candle, light some incense and do my prayers and meditation. The smell of the incense immediatley puts me in the “prayer zone”. My altar, with its cruicifix, statues, candles, etc., is my own little “holy ground”. While it is not the same as the community of a church, it is my own little “private sanctuary”.
    Cancer Warrior

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