Exodus 30: Lessons for Offering Holy Prayers to God

Introduction: Today, your body is the Tabernacle where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). As a believer in Jesus, you are also automatically part of His holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). Thus, the instructions regarding both the Tabernacle and the priesthood apply to you today.

God began His instructions regarding the Tabernacle and the priesthood by starting with the heart of worship, the ark of the covenant, the table of presence, and the menorah. To emphasize the importance of a proper heart of worship, God returns here to the heart of worship to reveal the altar of incense and the bronze laver. This completed His progressive revelation of the seven holy furnishings in the Tabernacle. The layout of the Tabernacle, the seven fixtures, and the priests’ ordination process all served the same purpose; allowing God to dwell with His people. Here, God reveals what He wants you to do in exchange for the privilege of dwelling with Him. He wants you to be in fellowship with Him through prayer. Just as a person should communicate frequently with his or her spouse to maintain their relationship, God wants you to communicate with Him frequently in prayer. In Exodus 30, God reveals seven lessons for offering holy prayers to Him.

First, through the symbolism of the altar of incense inside the Tent of Meeting, God encourages you to offer prayers as a “sweet aroma” to Him. Second, through the instructions to light the altar of incense twice per day, God encourages you to pray at least twice per day to Him. Third, through the instructions to Aaron to offer yearly prayers for the atonement for the nation, He also encourages you to offer prayers as an intercessor for the nation’s sins. Fourth, through the instructions for Aaron to take a census count of all the people, He encourages you to pray with a love for all His people. Fifth, through the symbolism of the bronze laver, He encourages you to always approach Him with a clean heart. Sixth, through the symbolism of the anointing oil, He also encourages you to pray with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, praying His will and not your own. Finally, through the specific requirements for the incense, He encourages you to pray to Him correctly.

1. Pray to Create a Sweet Aroma Before Christ in the Throne Room. Ex. 30:1-6.

  • The altar of incense: God began His instructions for how to pray to Him by describing the altar of incense (the “mizbach haketoros”), which sat prominently in between the door to the Tent of Meeting and the veil to the Holy of Holies: “Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit, it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it. You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two side walls—on opposite sides—and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you.” (Ex. 30:1-6). The altar of incense had seven components. These included: (1) the burning of incense; (2) acacia / shittim wood for the altar; (3) a pure gold overlay; (4) horns; (5) gold molding; (6) specific dimensions; and (7) poles to carry the altar as the Tabernacle moved. Each of these seven parts to the altar pointed towards Jesus.

The Altar of Incense1

(1) The burning incense. The altar served the purpose of burning incense to God (Ex. 30:1). The altar foreshadowed Christ. His blood was a sweet aroma to God: “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph. 5:2). His blood can also make your prayers a sweet aroma to God: “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; . . ..” (Ps. 141:2(a)). “And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.” (Lk. 1:10). “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Rev. 5:8). “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” (Rev. 8:4). Are you filling the throne room with a sweet aroma of prayer? Or, are you lifting up putrid complaints?

(2) Acacia / Shittim wood. The altar of incense, the carrying poles, the ark, the table of presence, and the framing for the Tabernacle were all made with acacia / shittim / “shih-taw” wood (Ex. 30:1, 5; 25:11, 13; 23-30; 26:15-16; 27:1-8). The wood symbolizes Christ’s humanity. The acacia wood is incorruptible. Likewise, His body was not corrupted so that it could be sacrificed for us: “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” (Ps. 16:10(b); Acts 13:35). The sap also had medicinal and preservative uses. Likewise, His blood also heals and gives life: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24; Is. 53:5). Christ suffered on the cross so that your prayers could reach God.

(3) The gold overlay. The altar and the poles were overlaid with pure gold (Ex. 25:3, 4). While wood represents Christ’s humanity, the gold represents His divinity. Although He emptied Himself of His divinity to take on human form, He was still God: “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6-8). Only Christ could cleanse your sins to make your prayers pure before God.

(4) The altar horns. Like the altar of judgment, the altar of incense had horns on top of it (Ex. 30:3). The priests put the blood from a sacrifice onto the horns of both altars (Ex. 30:10; Lev. 4:7; 16:18). The horns symbolized God’s power and refuge (Ps. 18:2; 89:17; Lk. 1:6; Lam. 2:3; 1 Kgs. 1:50; 2:28; 2 Chron. 18:10; Hab. 3:4). Adding blood from the sacrifice to the horns means that there is great power in the prayers of a person made righteous before God: “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Jam. 5:15-16). For those believers who pray in faith, Jesus has given you the power behind His name: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (Jo. 14:13-14). “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (Jo. 15:16). “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” (Jo. 16:23). The name is so powerful that the archangel Michael used it to drive Satan away (Jude 1:9). Yet, if you pray with doubt about the power of Christ’s name, your prayers are worthless and will not be answered: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:6-8). Are you praying in His name and in faith with the power given to you?

(5) The gold molding for the altar. The altar, like the ark, was surrounded by a gold molding (Ex. 30:3; 25:11). This is the crown of “the King of Kings” (Rev. 19:16). Your King of Kings sits in the throne room advocating for you: “who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” (Ro. 8:34). “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16). You are not to pray through any deceased person or saint because there is only one mediator between you and God: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim. 2:5). Are you directing your prayers only to Christ?

(6) The dimensions of the altar. The altar had a square base, measuring one cubit in each direction. But it was two cubits high (Ex. 30:2). Every number in the Bible has meaning. In this context, the number one signifies unity, and the number two means fellowship. In the context of prayer, the unity speaks to the need for unity in the body of Christ by praying with one accord: “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, . . .” (Acts 1:14(a)). By contrast, causing harm to another person can “hinder” your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). The vertical two cubits speak to the need for fellowship with Christ while you pray. Effective prayer requires that you maintain both your horizontal relationships with others and your vertical relationship with Christ (Hershberger, Ervin, Seeing Christ in the Tabernacle, Vision Publishers (2010) p. 78). Are you building up others in Christ?

(7) The poles to carry the altar. Like other parts of the Tabernacle, the altar was designed to be portable with gold rings and gold-plated acacia / shittim poles (Ex. 30:4-5). This signifies that Christ will listen to your prayers no matter where you may be: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). Are you praying wherever you go?

2. Pray at Least Twice a Day. Ex. 30:7-9.

  • The twice daily lighting of the incense. After revealing the components of the altar of incense, God revealed that the priests were to light it twice a day; at dawn and at twilight: “Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. You shall not offer any strange incense on this altar, or burnt offering or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it.” (Ex. 30:7-9). These instructions tell us when to pray.

The High Priest at the Altar of Incense2

  • Pray at least two times a day. The priests created a soothing aroma in the morning and at twilight (Ex. 30:7-8; Lev. 6:20; Nu. 28:4, 8). The psalmist David followed these instructions by praying in the morning (Ps. 5:3; 88:13). He also prayed at twilight (Ps. 63:6; 141:2). Twilight happened in the mid afternoon at the ninth hour. Peter and John also followed these instructions when they went “to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.” (Acts 3:1). Christ also fulfilled these rules by being crucified at the time of the morning sacrifice and dying at the appointed time of the mid-afternoon sacrifice (Mk. 15:25, 34). This suggests that Christ wants us to create a soothing prayer aroma to Him at least twice a day (1 Chron. 23:30; 1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; Jam. 5:16). Are you praying at least twice a day?

The priests offered a soothing aroma to God at least twice a day3

  • Your prayer life should remain consistent. God further commanded that His people offer a “perpetual incense” throughout the generations (Ex. 30:8). This suggests that we should be in constant prayer before God (1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; James 5:16). Praying twice a day is just the minimum expectation of a believer.

3. Pray as an Intercessor For the Sins of the Nation. Ex. 30:10.

  • The prayer of atonement for the nation. God also commanded the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies once a year to pray for the nation’s sins: “10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.” (Ex. 30:10). “But Aaron and his sons offered on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense, for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.” (1 Chron. 6:49). Yet, if the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on any day other than the one appointed day of Yom Kippur, he would die (Lev. 16:2; Heb. 9:7). After Christ’s death, the veil was ripped from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). While Aaron could only enter the Holy of Holies once per year, you can now enter with confidence on a daily basis to petition God: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16). How frequently are you praying for the entire nation?

  • Make God’s house a house of prayer. God wants you to use His access to pray for all His people: “Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Is. 56:7(b)). Yet, in three Gospels, Jesus warned that the people had perverted God’s house by stealing from others: “And He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a robbers’ den.’” (Matt. 21:13; Mk. 11:17; Lk. 19:46). If you are not using your talents (including prayer) for others, you are robbing from His Kingdom.

4. Pray out of Love For All God’s People. Ex. 30:11-16.

  • The census for God. After revealing the priest’s role in praying to all the people, God stressed the importance for the priests to care for and love all His people. He wanted no one left behind. He symbolically made this point through His requirement that the priests conduct a census count of all His people: “11 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the Lord. 14 Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. 15 The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.” (Ex. 30:11-16). This was the first of three census counts that God would order for His people in the wilderness. While the second two counts were focused on men of fighting age, the first count included both men and women aged 20 or older. From these passages, we infer that 20 is the age of adulthood under God’s Law.

  • All people are equally precious before God. While God wants you to tithe in proportion to what He has blessed you with (1 Cor. 16:2), He made the census contribution or “ransom” the same regardless of the person’s wealth. This signified that all people count equally in God’s eyes. Your wealth does not make you more or less important before God. The equal ransom was a symbol of the cost of redemption being equal for all.

  • Be burdened for all God’s people. The priest acted on God’s behalf to ensure that everyone was accounted for. None were left behind. Yet, a priest could not be burdened for his people if he did not know who they were: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Eph. 6:18). “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,” (1 Tim. 2:1). Numbering the people affirms the importance of maintaining church membership lists, praying over the lists and sending elders to check up on missing members. Many modern churches, however, have dispensed with this practice to be more seeker friendly. People can float in and out of church without calling anyone a member. Yet, this is like a shepherd who opens the gate in the morning and at night without monitoring which sheep safely make it back from the predators outside.

  • Your body has been bought at a terrible price, and no one but God has a claim to it. Numbering the people also signified an ownership of them. A person who conducted a census count without God’s direction and without a ransom would be subject to a “plague” because that person is making a false claim to own God’s people (Ex. 30:12). For this reason, when David took a census without collecting the ransom money for God, he brought a plague upon Israel (1 Sam. 24:1-25). “If a count was made without receiving the ransom money, a census communicated the idea that a king or a human leader owned Israel when God alone did. This was David’s problem in 2 Samuel 24:1-25, when David took a census without the ransom money and God plagued Israel.” (David Guzik on Exodus 30).4 Thankfully, Jesus paid the ransom price for each person (Ro. 3:25; 8:3-4; Heb. 2:17; 1 Jo. 2:2). Yet, because He paid the ransom for you and counts you as one of His sheep, He owns you. Although you cannot repay your debt, He wants you to show gratitude by staying holy for His use: “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:20). This includes staying pure so that your prayers for others will not be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Are you making your life a “living sacrifice” for Him? (Ro. 12:1).

5. Pray with a Clean Heart to Keep Your Prayers from Being Hindered. Ex. 30:17-21.

  • The bronze laver. After informing the priests when to approach Him and for what purpose, God advised the priests to only approach Him with a clean heart. He made this clear through the symbolism of the bronze laver, the “kiyyor”, that sat in front of the Tent of Meeting: “17 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; 20 when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the Lord. 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations.” (Ex. 30:17-21). The bronze laver was the final fixture revealed for the Tabernacle. Because it is listed out of order with the golden altar of incense, God sought to highlight its role in connection with proper prayer. Like everything else, the bronze laver pointed to Christ and what He does for believers.

The bronze laver5

  • Let Jesus expose your hidden sins. A priest who entered the Holy of Holies without washing his feet would die (Ex 30:20). The reason for this is that God is a consuming fire that destroys any unholy thing in His presence (Ex. 24:17; Heb. 12:29). The laver was made of bronze (Ex. 30:18). The bronze symbolized God’s judgment of sin. The altar of judgment was also covered in bronze (Ex. 27:2-5). Weapons were also made of bronze. Jesus is likewise described as having “bronze” feet (Rev. 1:15). His bronze feet will bring judgment to Satan by crushing him (Rom. 16:20). He will also judge those who fail to repent: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” (Jo. 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42; 17:31). Even saved believers will be held to account for their actions at the Berma seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:9). Thus, you should be motivated to let Him expose and cleanse your hidden sins (Ps. 19:12).

  • Reading God’s Law allows the Holy Spirit to convict you of your hidden sins. The bronze wash basin would have been highly reflective. If a priest looked down, he would see his own reflection. In a similar way, God’s Law reflects the sin in your heart: “23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (Jam. 1:23-25). To emphasize this point, God told the Jews to use mirrors for the bronze laver: “Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Ex. 38:8). The women who handed over the mirrors foreshadowed the Church (the bride of Christ) when it submits to reflect upon its sins. Are you memorizing God’s Law so that He can expose your hidden sins?

  • Jesus’ warning to wash your feet before you approach Him. At the Last Supper, Peter initially refused Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. Jesus responded by rebuking him: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jo. 13:8). Peter then asked Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head. Jesus responded: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (Jo. 13:10). “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (Jo. 15:3). In other words, Jesus died once for your sins (Heb. 10:12), but your flesh gets dirty each day and must still be washed. To wash yourself, you read God’s Word: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . .” (Eph. 5:26). The process of washing feet also implied that the person with the dirty feet was allowing his or her life to be closely examined by someone else. Likewise, the person washing the feet symbolically became acquainted with the other person’s sins for the purpose of helping to cleanse them. Are you submitting yourself to be accountable to someone else? Likewise, are you taking time out of your busy life to be a mentor to someone younger in the faith?

  • Failing to let Jesus wash you will also “hinder” your prayers. The priest first had to pass through the altar of sacrifice and the laver before he could reach the altar of incense. This means God wants you to have a clean heart before you pray. In the Old Testament, God warned that He will not hear the prayers of a sinner: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.” (Is. 59:2-3; Prov. 15:29; 8:9 Ps. 66:18). Jesus later repeated these warnings: “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but He does listen to anyone who worships Him and does His will.” (Jo. 9:31). Although many claim that Jesus was only speaking about non-believers, the New Testament still makes clear that sin can “hinder” your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Thus, approaching God in prayer without first repenting of your sins will hinder God’s ability to hear you. This might be analogous to making a call with poor reception. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1).

6. Pray with the Anointing of the Holy Spirit. Ex. 30:22-33.

  • The anointing oil. To ensure that His priests only approached Him with the right motives, God also stressed the importance of praying through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He symbolically stressed this through His requirements for the anointing oil: “22 Moreover, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 ‘Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, 24 and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin. 25 You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand. 29 You shall also consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me. 31 You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on anyone’s body, nor shall you make any like it in the same proportions; it is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people.’” (Ex. 30:22-33). These instructions speak to the role of the Holy Spirit in helping you to pray correctly.

  • Let the Holy Spirit guide you in prayer. The oil also symbolized the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13; Zech. 4:2-6). Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth will abide in you (Jo. 14:16-18). The Holy Spirit will cause you to remember Jesus’ Word to guide you both in life and in your prayers: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). Yet, if you don’t memorize God’s Word, you are not leaving the Spirit with much to help you “remember” during prayer. Using Moses’ example, God wants you to boost your faith by praying out His prior promises. Your faith comes by “hearing” the Word (Ro. 10:17). This includes hearing the Word in your own prayers. Are you praying out God’s Word as you pray for your needs or the needs of others?

7. Pray Correctly Before God. Ex. 30:34-38.

  • The Incense. Finally, because God is righteous and a God of order, He does not want you to approach Him irreverently or by praying amiss. He symbolically makes this point through His specific requirements for the incense, the “ketoret”, that had to be used at the altar: “34 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense; there shall be an equal part of each. 35 With it you shall make incense, a perfume, the work of a perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 You shall beat some of it very fine, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. 37 The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the Lord. 38 Whoever shall make any like it, to use as perfume, shall be cut off from his people.” (Ex. 30:34-37). There were 10 components to proper incense. Ten is a number of divine order. There were Ten Commandments. Likewise, Christ revealed that there are exactly 10 components to the Lord’s prayer. The 10 components of the incense foreshadow both the Lord’s prayer and elements of proper prayer.

(1) A personal relationship. The first part of the incense was the “stacte,” also called “balsam” (Ex. 30:34). Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel explained, “Stacte is simply the sap that drips from the tapping of the wood of the balsam tree.” (Kerithot 6a). Like the sap from the acacia tree, this foreshadowed Christ’s blood. Only Christ’s blood can bring fellowship with the Father (Eph. 2:10). Christ started off the Lord’s Prayer by emphasizing the personal relationship that He makes possible with God when He prayed: “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9).

(2) Faith. The second component was the “onycha.” (Ex. 30:34). The Hebrew word for this part of the incense is “shecheleth.” Its meaning is a mystery. It comes from the root word which means “to roar; as a lion”. The Greek word “onycha” or “ονυξ”,which is used in most English Bibles, means “fingernail” or “claw”. Thus, the second element that God selected as a symbol for prayer represented the unknown. Yet, the unknown is exactly what faith is. It is the proof of that which is unseen (Heb. 11:1). Christ represented the component of faith in prayer when He prayed to the unseen Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9).

(3) Worship. The third component of the incense was the “galbanum.” (Ex. 30:34). The famous Jewish commentator Rashi from the 12th century observed that galbanum is a bitter herb. He claimed that it was included in the incense as a reminder of deliberate and unrepentant sinners. In other words, the herb reminded the person of his or her unholy state before God and the need to bow and worship God’s holiness. Christ represented this ingredient to the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “hollowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9).

(4) Expectation. The fourth component of the incense was “olibanum.” (Ex. 30:34). The Jews called it “levonah”, which means white. The Greeks and the Romans called this “olibanum”. It is an aromatic resin that comes from the milky sap of certain trees within the genus “boswellia.” It has been traded within the Middle East and in North Africa for more than 5,000 years. The Old Testament contains a number of references to this trade (Is. 60:6; Song. 4:14). In addition to being used as incense inside the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, it was also used with the meal-offering sacrifice (Lev. 2:1, 16; 6:15; 24:7). The fragrant smell created from the burning of frankincense was a symbol of God’s holy name (Mal. 1:11; Song. 1:3). It also symbolized prayer (Ps. 141:2; Lk. 1:10; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). It was also one of three gifts that the wise men brought Jesus at the time of His birth (Matt. 2:11). In the context of Christ, it represented the great expectation that the wise men had with the arrival of the Messiah. Christ represented this ingredient to the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “Your kingdom come.” (Matt. 6:10).

(5) Submission. The fifth component was the “salted” incense (Ex. 30:35). Salt was part of any grain offering (Lev. 2:13). It also was part of any burnt offering (Ezek. 43:24). It gives the food taste. It also creates thirst. Before refrigeration, it was also used to keep meat from turning rotten. In the Bible, it has three meanings. First, it is also a symbol of judgment. For example, Lot’s wife was turned into salt (Gen. 19:26). On other occasions, salt was scattered on destroyed cities to destroy crops (Dt. 29:23; Jdgs. 9:45; Ps. 137:34; Jer. 17:5-6; 48:9; Zeph. 2:9). Second, it was an irritant in the wound of sin. For this reason, Jesus said that believers should be both “salt” and light (Matt. 5:13). In other words, they should make people feel uncomfortable sinning and draw them instead to Christ’s light. Third, it referred to something that was everlasting (Gen. 31:54; Ex. 24:5-11; Ps. 50:5). For this reason, God later referred to His “covenant of salt.” (Nu. 18:19). It also foreshadowed Christ’s everlasting covenant with us (Gen. 17:7; Ps. 105:10). Christ represented these ingredients of (judgment, irritating sin and His covenant) to the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10).

(6) Petition. The sixth component was “pure” frankincense (Ex. 30:35). Pure frankincense was also an important ingredient of the bread offering to God. “You shall put pure frankincense on each row that it may be a memorial portion for the bread, even an offering by fire to the LORD.” (Lev. 24:7: 2:2; 2:9). Like a tithe, the Jews gave a portion of their bread offering in thanks and to petition for their provision. God wants you to reverently petition Him in thanksgiving for the things you need to show your dependence on Him: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6). Christ represented the ingredient of petition in the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11).

(7) Confession. The seventh component was “holy” incense (Ex. 30:35). On the holy seventh year during the Holy Feast of Tabernacles, the people were to seek the forgiveness of their debts: “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD'S remission has been proclaimed.” (Dt. 15:1-2; 31:10; Neh. 10:31). On the first day of Jesus’ public ministry, he entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. After reading the passage, “He has come to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set free those who are oppressed,” Jesus proclaimed: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4:14-21). All you need to do is confess your sins and seek His forgiveness. Christ represented this holy ingredient to the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “And forgive us our debts.” (Matt. 6:12).

(8) Compassion. The eighth component was to “beat” the incense until “it is fine.” (Ex. 30:36). This represented giving up your own will and living for the benefit of others. Jesus warns that God will not forgive your debts if you fail to submit your will to others by forgiving the debts that others owe to you: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). He also warned that if you do not forgive others, your Heavenly Father will not forgive you: “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:15; 18:34-5). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:25). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:36). Christ represented this ingredient of compassion in the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).

(9) Dependence. After identifying the ingredients for the incense, God told Moses to place some of it “before the testimony.” (Ex. 30:36). This was the First Covenant of the Ten Commandments. You are no longer condemned under the Law (Ro. 6:14, 22; 7:4). Yet, voluntarily choosing the Covenant over covetousness is part of the “law of liberty.” (Jam. 1:25). The law of liberty brings freedom from depression, sadness, and misery. When you live within the protections of God’s Covenant, He will be a shield to you (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). Christ represented the ingredient of dependence in the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13).

(10) Acknowledgement. The tenth component was incense that could only be used for God (Ex. 30:36). This symbolized the need to acknowledge God as sovereign in your life. “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” (Ps. 103:19). “Who is like the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high.” (Ps. 113:5). Christ represented the ingredient of God’s sovereignty in the Lord’s prayer when He prayed: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:13).

  • Pray in secret. Jesus also warns to pray in secret: “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:5-6).

  • Don’t pray the Lord’s prayer in mindless repetition, but instead be guided by the Spirit. Finally, Jesus warns not to mindlessly chant words in prayer: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matt. 6:7). This includes mindlessly chanting the Lord’s prayer. Before giving the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said: “Pray, then, in this way.” (Matt. 6:9). Jesus wants you to offer prayers that include the 10 essential components of prayer. But He wants you to offer heartfelt prayers that are led by the Spirit. If your prayers are missing some of the essential ingredients, ask the Spirit to guide you in your prayers (Jam. 1:5).