From the Desiring God blog:
Do we really know what’s going on when we pray? When we bow our heads at the dinner table? When we whisper quietly during our morning commute? Or when, like dragging our feet along a well-worn path, we ask again for God to do what he hasn’t yet? Do we know what’s happening?
The Bible tells us in Revelation 8:1–5.
Here’s the picture: The seventh seal — the last page in the scroll of history — has been opened. And there is silence. Seven angels stand before God and each are given seven trumpets. Then another angel approaches the altar carrying a bowl (or censor). This angel is given incense to offer before the throne, with the prayers of the saints. Imagine, then, on this altar are piles of prayers. Centuries of prayers. Your prayers and mine. They are as fire, burning, their smoke rising up from the altar before God. Then the angel takes his bowl to this blazing altar and he rakes in all these flames. Then, holding this bowl of fire — this bowl of our prayers — he steps over and hurls it onto the earth…