Why do we burn incense?

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you…” (Psalm 141:2a, ESV)

You may notice the use of incense at DMAC for only a few of the special holy days of the Christian Year.

Burning incense goes all the way back to the Temple worship of the Old Testament as a representation of the prayers of the people joined to their sacrificial worship.

Although we can’t be sure the earliest church burned incense in their gatherings, we begin to see mentions of the practice in writings by the fourth century.

In the New Testament we read that incense is an ongoing part of the heavenly worship of God:

Then I saw…angels who stand before God…and another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” (Revelation 8:2–4, ESV)

We burn incense because:

  • It is a biblical practice that pleases God
  • It symbolizes the prayers of the saints and the permeating presence of the Holy Spirit
  • It helps to engage all the senses in worship
  • It connects us to the worship of the historic Church

Because some worshipers may have a sensitivity to smells and smoke, we will normally burn only a minimal amount of incense for approximately four minutes at the beginning of the service.