Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 17 2013 - Revelation 8:1-13 – Silence in heaven

Heaven, at least as it is depicted in the book of Revelation, is a very noisy place; it is filled with the praises of hosts of angels and of the redeemed. So it comes as a surprise to read that at the opening of the seventh seal, "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (Revelation 8:1).

The opening of the seals is a picture of the unfolding of history in fulfilment of God's plan. The unfastening of the seventh and last seal is expanded into a new picture, the picture of the seven trumpets. But before any of the trumpets can be sounded there is a period of silence. And in this period of silence, John sees an angel with a golden censer, symbolising the prayers of God's people, bringing these petitions before God. It is as if God has called for hush in heaven so that he can hear the prayers of those he has made his own. The praise of angels is precious to God, but even more precious to him are the prayers of his people.

What a wonderful picture. God stills the clamour of heaven to hear your prayer. He is even more anxious to listen to the cry of your heart than you are to pray. What an encouragement to our prayer.

But there is more. John then observes "the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake" (8:5). It is this action which gives rise to the sounding of the trumpets. The prayers of God's people, mingled with fire from the altar – the symbol of Christ's sacrifice – have a powerful effect upon what happens on earth. The engine that drives the purposes of God in history is the sacrificial work of Christ mixed with the prayers of God's people. Our prayers play a vital role in the unfolding of God's plans.

Prayer the Churches' banquet, Angels' age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against the Almighty, sinner's tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six days world – transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well dressed,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the souls blood,
The land of spices, something understood.
    (George Herbert)

Do we grieve over the state of the world in which we live? Let us cry out to God in prayer. Do we want to see the kingdom of God advancing? Let us make prayer a priority. The purposes of God are driven forward by the power of prayer. Never underestimate its effectiveness. God calls for hush in heaven that he may hear your prayers.

Father in heaven, we come into your holy presence through the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We come in adoration. We come in prayer. We come because we must. Your Spirit within us has taught us to pray. Have mercy, we pray, upon this suffering world. In your mercy, heal and save. You created this world in six days by the power of your word. Breathe upon your creation to bring it to life once again. Lord we long for the day when the earth shall be filled with your glory even as the waters fill the sea. We would silence heaven with our prayers that your grace might bring an end to the warring clamour of this world.

Peter Misselbrook