“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.”


Jack Hayford says, “There is no neat way to deliver life. Beware of well-wrapped and beautifully beribboned packages which claim to contain it.”


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 through intercession?


Prayer is messy because prayer involves men. We live on an earth ruled by the law of death, yet prayer is all about birthing life. We bear 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 by petition and intercession we discover ourselves 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 stench do you need changed into a sweet-smelling fragrance? Why not take it before Him?


Keep reading….Click here for the next spice: frankincense.


5 Responses

  1. Jane Bromley says:

    Thank you for plumbing the depths, Kandy! Every word of Scripture is profitable. 2 Tim. 3:16 and excavating the ingredients of a perfect prayer is especially helpful.
    I’ve been thinking about how Jesus often retreated to the mountains usually at night and alone to do most of His praying. (His days were busy with feeding crowds, telling parables, healing, deliverance, discipling and logging miles and miles on foot without a FitBit, some of it on water) 😊
    Contrary to conventional thinking, praying alone can be harder than praying in public. Our prayers in front of others are often sterilized and proper. We can mask our real feelings when we think others might judge us. But when we are alone with God, the little gnats of distraction ubiquitously vie for our attention. And the stinging horseflies of condemnation attempt to nullify our prayers. Serpents try to poison us with lies and toxic thoughts. The swarm can sometimes be overwhelming, and without the galbanum, we might never repel those pesky pests.

    • kandypersall says:

      Oh Jane. What a great insight! So so true….indeed how our private prayers have so much to distract us…just like annoying bugs. I hadn’t even thought about relating the galbanum to the much needed insect repellent of our pesky thoughts. I desire to learn to bring/apply that which is foul smelling – maybe my own confession – into the depths of prayer, so that pride has no place there. Only the glory of God. Wow…such rich truths to ponder. Thanks again.

  2. […] in our hearts. Maybe that’s why brokenness (stacte), willingness (onycha) and offensiveness (galbanum) come first (Exodus […]

  3. […] stopped and read again the names of these spices that I had never smelled. Stacte. Onycha. Galbanum. Frankincense. Each an essential element for incense — a sweet fragrance which the Revelation […]

  4. […] Praying with Spice 2 – the significance of galbanum […]

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