In my home, I have two very precious boxes. One is made of wood and very rustic. The lid is a lovely piece of carved wood with the bark still intact. The other box is very different. It is made of cardboard and paper, and years ago I decoupaged beautiful, antique-looking papers onto it.
But it’s not so much what’s outside the boxes that is important, but rather their contents. Each of the boxes holds the treasures that my children gave to me as they were growing up—the treasures that they would gather on our walks together. Inside each box are things like dried dandelions and other flowers, feathers, leaves, rocks, and shells. Each time my children would run up and hand me a fistful of flowers, I would put them in water, and when they finally began to wilt, I would put them in the box, where they would eventually dry on their own.
Both boxes are stuffed to the brim, and I’m afraid to pick through the contents because everything would probably disintegrate in my hands. The rustic box resides on top of my large floor-standing jewelry chest and this morning, as I was preparing to go to church, I had to move the box off the top to get to my jewelry. It was then that it caught my eye, and I opened it and peeked inside for the first time in a long time.
I remember one time when my oldest daughter and I were walking across an open field dotted with hundreds of tiny white flowers. Christian was about 5 at the time, and so enthralled that she could not stop picking them and offering them to me. I finally had to tell her to stop because I was completely overcome with flowers.
My two daughters are 12 and 16, and long past the age of offering me shells, rocks and feathers, so when I saw the dried flowers again, a sweet sadness swept into my heart. It occurred to me that if forced to make a choice between the contents of those boxes and my jewelry chest, I wouldn’t hesitate: you can take the jewelry chest. It means nothing to me. Encased in those boxes are my children’s childhoods and their sweet innocence. When I look at the black feather sticking out from beneath the dried weeds, I remember how easily they found treasures in simple things, and how quickly they offered them to me, because back then, I was their sun, moon and stars.
God has a similar container for the treasures we’ve offered Him, and He feels the same way about them. They are more valuable than anything on this earth to Him, except ourselves. These treasures are our prayers. God collects them in bowls in heaven:
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. (Revelation 5:8)
Somehow, between our hearts and God’s heart, our prayers take on a beautiful fragrance. And while, to us, our prayers are not real “things”—to God, they are material, and infinitely precious, and not one—not one—is lost. They are gathered in golden bowls. At this very moment in heaven, every one of our prayers resides before the throne of God. He looks upon them as I look upon my precious boxes. They represent the love relationship between Himself and us, just as the boxes represent the love relationship between myself and my children.
But these golden bowls are not something He sees as simply a heap of prayers. Each prayer is an individual entity–each thought, request, or beloved conversation we have had with Him—are moments that He treasures far more than we can imagine.
Because we are not yet face to face, this is all He has of our relationship with Him. He is like a lover who waits breathlessly for another letter from His beloved who is far away, then when He receives it, He holds it tenderly and presses it to His heart. So while He waits and yearns for our homecoming, He keeps our prayers in honored receptacles.
Let us take a moment today and delight our God. All it takes is a heart-to-heart talk, and uplifted hands. Let us offer Him the sweet aroma of our love.
May my prayer be counted as incense before Thee;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering. (Psalm 141:2)