One of the unusual scenes in the book of Revelation allows us a brief glimpse into the worship around the throne of God in heaven. There two objects, held by heavenly beings, suggest how we might worship God on earth.

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8)

There is music in heaven. Musical instruments accompany worshippers as they sing praises to God. The elders around God’s throne hold harps. God loves when we praise Him on instruments now, partly because He is surrounded by praise like that for eternity in heaven. In Revelation 4:8-11, John informs us the four living creatures and the twenty four elders, (the same group holding the harps and bowls in chapter 5) are in a perpetual chorus of praise. As fascinating and encouraging as it is to consider the elders with their stringed instruments forming an eternal orchestra, it is the second object they hold that staggers the imagination!

John saw a prayer meeting in heaven unlike any other. The elders are holding golden bowls, full of a smoldering incense.

Incense was burned in the Temple at Jerusalem day and night. It was made of sweet spices and frankincense, an aromatic resin that smells something like nutmeg. When the incense was ignited, the aroma of the rising smoke made the area around the holy place extremely desirable and inviting.

In heaven, the elders are holding bowls of incense. This isn’t potpourri- just sitting in a bowl throwing off fragrance. Incense is combustible. The bowls the elders hold are on fire!


As if that imagery isn’t enough to electrify our spirits with curiosity, John confirms an additional detail- the bowls are made of gold. Gold means the content of the bowls is highly valuable. It’s at this point John informs us the content of the bowls, the incense of heaven, is prayer. Your prayers and mine-every prayer we’ve ever prayed- are kept in golden bowls coming up before God like incense.

Today, we can worship God in a variety of ways but I suggest the heavenly harp and bowl model as a great option. By combining worship music and prayer, our prayers are more easily joined with others in the congregation or in a prayer meeting.

Music also encourages and lifts our spirits and allows us the privilege of praising God with our our entire life- our bodies, our spirits, and our minds. By singing and playing instruments during prayer we add life and a fragrant, inviting aroma to our prayers. Think of it as “worship based prayer“. Harp and bowl is not entertainment, it’s the biblical model of worshipping God simultaneously with music and prayer.


The next city wide prayer meeting we hold in Austin, plan to attend and we can worship like the living beings in heaven- with harps and bowls.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s