Something Beyond

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Ps. 141:2 

I need to take note of what Psalm 141:2 is saying. Outward actions and the trappings of religion are important to many. And it's not my intention to condemn them. But there are several places in scriptures that make it clear that the outer trappings are mere symbols of inner devotion. As such, they are unnecessary if the heart is right. And one of those places is right here. Incense for some is a spiritual aid. To others it's a distraction. But this verse reminds me that whether or not
it's helpful, it is unnecessary, since the smell and rising smoke of incense simply point to a deeper and more important reality: prayer.

Even sacrifices, which are called for in the law of Moses, point to something beyond themselves. And in the second clause of this morning's verse, I read about the lifting up of hands, which is no doubt a synonym for the prayer I read about in the first clause. If I lift up my hands in sincere prayer, therefore, it is at least as effective as any physical sacrifice.

The Reformed tradition is big on getting rid of the shadow and going straight for the substance. But I am not so sure this is the best route to take. My faith is not always perfect. There are times when no symbols are necessary and I can feel myself spiritually connected to God with no outside help. But what about those times when I need something beyond the straightforward hearing of the word? The sacraments provide me with an answer: water, bread, and wine are all perceived through my other senses. God understands and blesses my cry for help in connecting with the Divine, and has made all my senses an integral part of worship.

But when my prayer replaces incense and when the simple act of lifting up my hands the equivalent of the most elaborate sacrifice, then I know that I am resting securely in the promises of God.

Thank you for symbols of faith that help lead me to you, Lord. But thank you even more for the spiritual connection I feel with you through simple prayer. In the Name of the One who taught me to pray...