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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Mary C. Earle

Tuesday, May 19

Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense.
—Psalm 141:1

How do we pray? Often we think of prayer as a completely verbal enterprise. And of course it is a helpful exercise to bring our desires and yearnings to God in prayer through speaking and writing.

It is also true that we offer prayer with our bodies and with our souls. Our senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, hearing—offer us a way to pray, a way to know God’s presence and to perceive that presence in new ways.

In ancient Israel, incense was burned as a sign of prayer, and a sign of the divine presence. The mysterious movement of the smoke and the aroma of the incense invited the senses of sight and smell to be active in the act of prayer. Gesture and movement may have accompanied the offering of the incense.

In ancient Israel, as in Jewish practice to this day, the sacred name of God was never uttered. Wariness existed about reducing the infinite to the finite, the immortal to the mortal.

Lighting incense, lighting a candle, placing a flower just so—all of these activities in and of themselves may be prayer, and they evoke prayer within us, prayer not confined to words, yet prayer that is deep and true, with sighs too deep for words.

Gracious God, allow me to know your presence through my senses this day.

The Signposts for May originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.