Do I Pray in Vain?

It’s frustrating when something feels wasted. Especially in the highly productive, competitive culture of today, whenever your time, energy, or dreams appear to serve no purpose or produce no value, discouragement can quickly set in. It feels like there’s no room for failure. There’s no time to spare. If we don’t get the results we expect in the timeframe we expect, we mark whatever it was as a waste and will probably be hesitant or scared to ever try it again.

Within this, one experience which every Christian has likely wrestled through at some point is feeling like our prayers were wasted. It could have been praying for a loved one to be healed, but they died anyways. It could have been praying for a friend to be saved, only to have them continue to shut down Gospel conversations. It could even have been praying for the world to be made right and for justice to be done, which has evidently not fully come to pass. We wonder, “If God didn’t answer my prayer, did He even hear it? Did I waste my time praying?”

While no human is capable of fully explaining the hidden mysteries of prayer, we can all look to Revelation 8 to see an encouraging truth about prayer: the prayers of Christians are not wasted. In His sovereignty, God will use the prayers of every Christian in bringing about His purposes for the end times.

A Holy Silence

After the brief pause of chapter 7, we read in Revelation 8 the opening of the final seal. Its opening releases the seven trumpets, which serve as the continuation of judgement upon the earth. In this post, we won’t spend our time looking into these trumpets. Instead, let’s look at the beginning of the chapter and the process that precedes the sending out of those trumpets. We’ll start with Revelation 8:1–2.

“When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.”

Anytime there is silence in the Bible, we should listen for what we can hear in that silence. Silence happens for a reason. This silence in particular is jarring because it takes place in Heaven–a place which is normally filled with voices loudly worshiping God. But at this moment, all of Heaven goes quiet.

Why? What could possibly make Heaven be silent for that long?

A God Who Does Not Waste

This prolonged silence could only be cause by something truly sacred. Something that even captures the attention of angels. As we read on to see what could possibly make all of Heaven be silent, we should feel our anticipation building. Revelation 8:3–5 gives us our answer.

“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.”

The silence was the result of awe as to the judgement to come and out of respect for the prayers that will help usher in that judgement.

Did you catch the truth that’s contained within the imagery of this passage? Basically, the prayers of all the saints throughout all of history are currently being stored at the altar in Heaven. Then, when the time comes, God will use them to bring about His plan for the end of the world. His judgement will be unleashed, and in some capacity, it will be through our prayers He will do so.

From this, there are two truths about prayer that are important for us not to miss. The first is that our prayers have power. In God’s infinite wisdom and power, He want us to pray and He brings about His will through our prayers. Our prayers may not always be answered the way we hope, but this passage shows that prayer is still powerful, which leads us to our second takeaway.

No, not all of our prayers will be answered like we’d hope, but the prayers of believers are never wasted. God is saving the prayers of Christians at the altar before His throne. Prayers that don’t come to earthly fruition don’t disappear into thin air. God heard your prayer, He stored your prayer, and He will use in in the end times to make the world right again.

What a joy it is to worship a God who does not waste. He uses what is meant for evil to bring about good; He recreates the most wretched sinners into saints; He saves the prayers of Christians throughout the ages to one day bring judgement to this fallen world. Prayer is never wasted.