Moving the hand of God: The power of prayer – Revelation 8:1-6

Does God respond to man? Does God act in response to the prayers of men? These are very difficult questions to consider. Those who believe that God does not act in response to man will have a very difficult time explaining certain passages of scripture. There are those who feel that God controls the very will of man to such a degree that man does not speak, think, or act unless God controls such actions. Some feel that even the sins we commit are somehow within God’s plan because, after all, God directs and controls everything. A very plain reading of scripture will reveal that God is in control but He is not controlling. God is providently in control of the cosmos, yet He is not controlling every movement and every thought and act of man. A very plain reading of scripture also reveals that God does, in fact, respond to the will of man. He is in control of all things, but He is not controlling. Though He could, for He is God, He chooses to not control the will of man. There are times in history in which God has moved various men to bring about God’s ultimate plan. However, these incidents are not the norm and are very rare and limited to God’s actions in regards to history and His prophetic plan. At the same time, God does have a plan for this world and He will work and act in order that His plan will be completed. These are some awesome truths that are beyond our comprehension. However, we must accept God at His Word and when the Bible teaches that our prayers do effect the acts of God, then we must believe it. When we see places in scripture when it seems as though God is controlling mans will, then we must believe it. There are many things that we cannot understand. There are many things that do not seem to fit together, yet, we must accept it for what it is. The point is that though it may not fit with various theological points of view, the Bible clearly shows that prayer is a very powerful tool used by the saints of God to move the very hand of God.  The prayers of those who have come to faith in Him are very much capable of moving the hand of God. The response of God to a believer’s prayer is an awesome and powerful thing. When God’s people pray, the very hand of God can be moved. We see this very thing in our text in Revelation 8:1-6. When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”[1]

The seven angels. The seven angels mentioned in verse two may be angels of the highest degree. The Bible indicates that there are various ranks among the angelic host. Those various groups of angels are as follows: Cherubim (Genesis 3:24), Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), Archangels (1 Thessalonians 4:16) Thrones, Dominions, Rulers, Authorities (Colossians 1:16), and Powers (Ephesians 6:12). The angles seen around the throne of God, seems to be very high ranking angels.

The offering of prayers. One angel came and stood at the altar and offered up the prayers of the saints on the golden altar. This altar is pictured on earth as the altar of incense in the temple. The altar in the temple was also made of gold just like the one in heaven. Both Ezekiel (Ezekiel 10:2) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:6) both had visions of this altar. The altar if incense in the tabernacle was the closest thing to the Holy of Holiest. In heaven, this altar is the closest thing to the throne of God. The incense that the angel took up to the altar symbolizes the countless numbers of prayers made by God’s people. As the prayers are offered, in verse five, we see the angel taking the fire from off the altar and throwing it down upon the earth. At this point, the seven angels are preparing to sound their trumpets. The seven trumpets are a part of God’s final outpouring of wrath upon this wicked world. The interesting point we see here is that the sounding of the trumpets does not occur until the prayers are offered up. These prayers, no doubt, including the cries of the tribulation saints for God to put an end to reign of the anti-Christ. John MacArthur writes, “The angel’s act of throwing it to the earth reveals God’s judgment will come in direct response to those prayers. The cumulative effect of the prayers of innumerable righteous men will be very powerful.”[2]

God does respond to the prayers of His saints. The underline principle we see here is that God does indeed respond to the prayers of His saints. Look at James 5:13-18. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”[3]What we see here is that the acts of God is not necessarily dependent on the prayers of believers, however, He does act in response to the prayers of believers. There are many things that go undone, simply because we do not pray. Miracles that God desires to give does not come, because we do not pray. Hard hearts continue to be hardened, because we do not pray. Revival never comes, because we do not pray. Pride and selfishness builds up in our hearts because we let sin go unconfessed and we do not pray. The hand of God can certainly be moved by the prayers of His people. What is your heart’s desire? Do you want to see God move? Do you want to see revival? Do you want to see souls saved? Do you want a spiritual fire to fall from heaven? If so, then pray. Keep on praying. Be fervent in prayer. Be passionate in prayer. Don’t give up. Pray. When you are tired of praying, pray some more. When you are weary, pray more passionately. Prayer involves the entire capacity of man. Pray with your heart. Pray with your mind. Pray with your lips. Pray with every fiber of your being. Cry out to God. Let your requests be made known to God. Don’t hold anything back. Pray. Pray. Pray. You and I, as believers in Christ, have the power through Jesus to move the very hand of God. Through the blood of Jesus we have access to the very throne of God. By the authority that we have in the name of Jesus we can turn the tide through our prayers.

You may ask, ‘but what about the prayers of unbelievers?’ Though God can do anything because He is God, even through the prayers of unbelievers; there is only one prayer that an unbeliever can be assured of that God will answer. It is the prayer of repentance. Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” God will never turn away a repentant heart. If a lost soul genuinely comes before God seeking to be saved from the penalty of sin, God will not turn him away. Prayer is a powerful thing. It is tool that is so rarely used, yet, when it is used fervently, God’s hand is moved and awesome and powerful things proceed from His throne.


[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 8:1–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, John. Because the time is near.

[3] The New King James Version. (1982). (Jas 5:13–18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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