“Take for yourself spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, spices with pure frankincense…And with it you shall make incense…salted, pure and holy” (Exodus 30:34-35 NASB).
Take a peek with me into God’s recipe file. Instead of the categories of mains, sides, and desserts, His recipe box includes sections for faith, hope and prayer. Let’s return again to the ingredient listings for God’s very best prayer recipe.
We’ve already included the first two on our written list: stacte, the gum resin droplets drawn from the myrrh tree and onycha, the shell-sourced fragrance. In equal parts, prayer must include tearful brokenness and personal willingness. Once heated, it’s obvious to see why these would prove a “fragrant aroma….well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
But what is our next ingredient? What is the spice galbanum?
Ellicott’s 1897 Old Testament Commentary says, “Galbanum is a gum well known to modern chemists. It may be procured from various plants, as the opoidia galbanifera, the galbanum Persicum, and others. When burnt, this gum has a strong pungent odor, which is said to be disagreeable in itself, but to bring out and prolong the scent of other spices.”
The Biblical commentary published by the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (1882) agrees: “(Galbanum) was the resin of an umbelliferous plant, used by the ancients medicinally, and also, from its pungent odour, when burnt, to keep off insects, to expel serpents from stables, and revive sick bees.”
Twelfth century Rabbi Maimonides likens it to a black honey with an “offensive smell.”
Offensive smell? An insect repellent? A disagreeable ingredient? What kind of component is this to add to a recipe for perfect prayer?
As I mulled over these questions, they merely brought up another one. Are not the most disagreeable situations the very ones that need to be taken before God?
Leonard Ravenhill, the fiery English evangelist of the early twentieth century said, ”The most fervent prayer meetings are in hell.”
The pain of a wayward child, the agony of a difficult divorce, the fear of encroaching financial ruin or of a deadly disease — are not each one of these disgusting to our senses and yet reality all around us? With such a bitter, foul-smelling gum in our midst, how can we live positively except by knowing the Father transforms our anguish in prayer?
Prayer is messy because prayer involves men. We bring the stench of our pain and confusion before God knowing ‘only in prayer’ can the caustic become calm and the bitter become sweet. How precious to know that even our most putrid attitude becomes a perfumed ascent when mixed with a broken heart and willingness to hear. The odiferous elements of life are repugnant alone, but when sacrificed in prayer, we discover both life and intercession increased in passion and efficacy.
Hear and be encouraged by 19th-century Andrew Murray’s word, “Do not think of how little you have to bring God, but how much He wants to give to you.”
What bitter smelling fragrance do you need changed into a sweet smelling fragrance? Why not take it before Him?