A friend shared with me earlier today that she and her husband in a time of prayer together received an assurance that God was attending to a certain much-prayed, yet still unanswered, prayer.
The word she used—attending—took hold of me, and a line from a prayer in the Psalms came on my heart:
Hear my cry, O LORD, attend unto my prayer; from the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee when my heart is overwhelmed… (Ps. 61:1,2).
It’s a cry to God to attend, to give His attention, to that prayer.
Later, I thought upon a passage in The Revelation that I often dwell on:
And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
Silence in Heaven? What is this about? What is happening during this time of silence in Heaven? Let’s read further:
And I saw the seven angels which stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand (Rev. 8: 1-4).
What is happening during the silence in Heaven? We see first of all that in this time of silence the seven angels who stand before God are handed seven trumpets. They are not sounding their trumpets just yet; they are just receiving them.
Then we discover that during this time of silence in Heaven it appears that the saints in the earth are offering up their prayers, and an angel is intermingling “much incense” with the prayers of the saints “upon the golden altar which was before the throne.”
Let’s drop back down into the earth for a minute. Here are the beloved saints of the Lord offering up their earnest prayers… and wondering, wondering, why the Silence? And it has been the heart cry of the saints of all ages to understand the silence of Heaven. Why, Lord, are you silent? Why do you not answer our prayers?
Unto Thee will I cry, O LORD my Rock; be not silent to me, lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit…”
Keep not silence, O LORD, be not far from me…
How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? Forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?
O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt Thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.
The cries go up to The Silence. Is God angry against the prayer of His people? Never! He has commissioned an angel who is given “much incense” to offer with the prayers of the saints. Where did the angel get this special incense? Where else but from the apothecary of God? For God Himself is burdened with the burdens of His people far, far more than we comprehend. And He has ordained that heavenly incense be added to our prayers—His way of saying Amen to our cries… His way of crying with us! His way of assuring us that our burden is His own burden!
Let us never fail, in the silences of God, to read His heart aright. Let us never interpret the silence of Heaven as a message that our loving God is careless about the prayers of His saints—the seekers, the humble, the broken, the destitute.
He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer (Ps. 102:17).
…Oh, far from not despising it, just before I began to write this something happened to me (and it seems I am to include it here, but I know I can’t adequately describe it). I unexpectedly felt pierced—yes, that’s the word I must use—pierced to the heart, and overwhelmed, with an awareness of God’s great great love and concern for my concerns—the darkness of the hour, the overwhelming needs on every front, yet God seeming so silent. I was pierced by the awareness of His love so great, so deep: it’s impossible that He could not be concerned. Oh, how it grieves me, that I seem to know so little the God of love!
Oh, let me never misinterpret the silence of Heaven. It is a very pregnant silence. Something very momentous and very powerful is about to burst forth. Seven angels are given seven trumpets, and stand in expectant waiting. At the same time, another angel having a golden censer stands before the golden altar before the throne of God, and continually adds his incense to the prayers of the saints.
And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
Now something else happens. Now comes the response:
And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
The same censer full of incense intermingled with the prayers of the saints is suddenly cast into the earth! And there are voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
No silence now!
Notice the storm elements—thunder, lightning. The voices of Heaven…
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him” (Ps. 50.3).
A great eternal Storm is about to break forth!
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
No silence now!
How long will our God be inattentive to the prayers of His people? He never has been. Not for an instant. The half-hour silence in Heaven is a time of great preparation; the angels with the trumpets are preparing themselves. And oh, we feel the growing pressure of the word God has been preparing, preparing, preparing…
And we know that the hour of its mighty release is at hand!
The LORD shall roar out of Zion, and utter His Voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shall shake…” (Joel 2.16).
The silence in heaven precedes the silence there is going to be in the earth when the Lord God Almighty speaks from His throne!
But the LORD is in His Holy Temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him (Hab. 2:20).
Beloved of the Lord in great trial, at the end of your earthly resources with heart overwhelmed, let us never take the silence of Heaven to mean that our loving God does not hear, does not care.
He hears, oh, He hears, and cares, and is giving my prayers, and yours, His loving attention!