Originally published Monday, 23 February 2015.

A couple weeks ago I was setting up for our ladies’ Valentine’s event at church. My little one was really unhappy about it all, I was in a rush, trying desperately not to be late with all the preparation, everything was wooshing around my focus, and then I saw them. As I quickly plopped something in the trashcan, the ribbons adorning the pillars outside our church had been taken down. The whole community had been tied up with ribbons for over a year in prayer and support for a baby girl with cancer. Just days earlier her fight was finished and she was at peace with her Father. Of course the ribbons would eventually find their way to the trash, regardless of the outcome... but her home-going had settled on my husband and I quite heavily. We didn’t know the family personally, but she was one of too many we’d prayed for recently. And the ribbons in the trash just broke my heart. I got chocked up, lifted her parents up to our Lord’s grace, peace, and comfort once again, and cried out, “God! It feels like all our prayers ended up in the trash with these ribbons!”

The prayers we’d lifted for hurting marriages, people with cancer, Alzheimer's, and a variety of rare diseases and ailments, unemployment month after month...all our prayers felt like they were crumpled up with those ribbons. And my heart broke for all of them. All the little details of event prep, even my fussing wee one, faded and everything stopped as I stood there staring into the trash. Prayer is a hard labor. It’s a strange tension between something that feels like doing almost nothing, sitting, waiting, and resting on God alone, while leaning, straining, emptying, and holding on to hope and trust until it feels like your fingernails are getting ripped off. And when you’ve been lifting, straining, hanging, waiting, trusting, and resting for so long for so much, it is disheartening, weary, and sometimes even disillusioning when God’s best answer for a situation is “No.” As I looked at the ribbons at the bottom of the waste basket, the Lord reminded me of different imagery. Truthful, Scriptural imagery of how He saw our prayers. They were not, and never could be, rubbish to Him.

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. Revelation 8:3-4 NIV

Our prayers were a beautiful incense. They were placed on a golden altar before the King of Kings, directly before Him, not off to the side or discarded. They had His full attention and care. They were precious. I know full well this life is full of mysteries we can’t understand this side of heaven. Many of the “no’s” in my prayer life fall into that category. I needed the reminder that my prayers were tucked in a place of golden honor and value, directly before my Father, and strangely, it was the ribbons in the trash that provided the opportunity. I don’t know what prayer burdens you’ve been lifting on your side of the computer screen, but I’m praying the Lord would send you a fresh wind of faith and strength. May you always remember, your prayers are most precious to our Father in heaven.

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24