Something else happens when I consider this image from Revelation of holy fire being thrown down from heaven in my prayer: it makes me consider what, exactly, I'm praying.
That is, it makes me really have to want it to pray it.
It makes me think about what I'm asking for, why I'm asking for it, who it's going to affect, how it's going to affect them. It makes me think about what God must be thinking about it, about whether this is something that's worth holy fire or not.
It makes me think about whether the God I'm praying to is big enough.
It's easy for us to get into the habit of praying small things. That seems weird because at the same time ,we don't pray most of our small things because we say something like, "I don't want to bother God with that." I don't want to bother God with my sick cat or my car troubles or my arthritic knee that's going to clear up on its own as soon as the weather changes. It seems "silly" to "bother" God with that kind of stuff, to "waste" our prayer on such things.
But then, the prayer that we do pray betrays us. Because too often, we are simply praying to a God who is too small.
We're praying the lowest common denominator. We're praying the smallest token of blessing we'll take from God. We're praying the tiniest little thing He can do for us. You don't have to heal me, Lord, but if I can stop coughing for just twenty minutes, I'd be most thankful. You don't have to take away my burden, Lord, but if I could just carry it for two more miles, that'd be awesome.
Over and over, we reduce our prayer to whatever the smallest thing is that could happen that would show us that God is real, that He's listening, that He cares, and then, that's all we tell ourselves we want from Him. Then, we secretly harbor resentment, and often, doubt, because He doesn't do bigger things.
But when I think about this image, about this censor of my prayer being filled with holy fire, it makes me stop. It makes me pause. It makes me ask myself if this is really the holy fire that I want the angel to pull off the altar. If this is what I want heaven to rain down on earth.
No, really. Is this it? Is this what I want heaven to thunder down on me? On those I love? On those who are wondering right now if God is even real?
More often than not, the answer is no. The answer is not really. The answer is, it can't be. It can't be just this.
So this holy fire encourages me to pray bigger prayers, to pray for a bigger God, to invest myself in what it is that I'm seeking from heaven. To want better things. To really want them.
Because if God has a heaping bowl of holy fire to rain down on earth, then I want all of it. Not just a few scattered sprinkles. Not just a few drops.
So...what is it you really want? Or rather, Who is it you really want?