What is the difference between using sage in prayer or other sources of incense? Why would it make a difference?
Many religions use incense in prayer. In God’s dealings with establishing traditions with the Israeli people, incense is crucial. Working with Moses and Aaron and crafters of perfumes and incense was exact for God. He is most particular in the beginnings of establishing rituals of worship in the wilderness to distinguish His people and their practices from the practices of other religions in the area. The smell of worship is important to God as much as the color and surroundings. So, is there a difference in using incense in prayer to the Creator from prayers to other deities?
A popular practice today is to use sage, a Native American practice, for removing evil influence from a location. Sage is readily available in the plains nations and has a distinctive aroma. Some might posit that this is the same as the distinctive use of perfumed incense of the Hebrew and today the Catholic Churches of Orthodox and Roman and Anglican. Even the full gospel or Pentecostals use perfumed oils in prayer if not incense. So, is there a difference in using sage or perfumed incense or perfumed oil in prayer?
Another practice with Biblical roots is anointing oil. James instructs us to pray the prayer of faith and anoint with oil. Jesus and His disciples lay hands on the sick and use oil. These practices are common today and many miracles, signs, and wonders occur. Some years ago, when holding a small group meeting in a motel meeting room, we used oil to pray for the sick and anoint for service. After a meeting one night, a group was gathered at the adjacent restaurant. One of the women held the oil bottle with a look of wonderment. Apparently, I had left it behind and she in helping made sure it was retrieved. It intrigued me, so I asked about her fascination. It is important to not focus on any instrument of practice and keep our faith in Christ, our Lord, not an amulet or object. She handed the bottle to me and told me that is was warm and had been warm all the time. Indeed it was almost hot. Certainly, this was a sign for the moment and a touch point for faith though not the object of faith. So, is there a difference in what touch points we use in prayer and why would there be?
““You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood.”
Exodus 30:1 NKJV
“And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil.”
Exodus 30:25 NKJV
“For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”
Exodus 40:38 NKJV
In these defining verses in the Old Testament, the Lord, Creator, makes a distinction for Himself among His people. The focus is to remind Israel that they did not serve the gods (little g) of the area, but THE GOD of all heaven and earth. The cloud, the fire, the perfume, the oil, the incense, the altar, and more put their focus to Him and away from other influences. It also let the other nations know that the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY lived with His people and protected them.
In this time of the the New Testament in Jesus, the Christ, the focus is taken away from the ritual and the Holy Spirit of God lives inside of each believer not the building or tent.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
I Corinthians 6:19 NKJV
Yes, we still use altars and buildings and incense and oil in our prayers. The focus is on the one to whom we pray. That is the difference.
It is not the sage or the consecrated water or oil or incense, but the object of our faith. The object of our faith should be THE FATHER. The Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, is the object of our faith. These items are helps, but not the object. The give us tangible connection points, but they of themselves contain no power to help us.
There is a big difference in sage prayer practices and Christian prayer. It is not the sage, but the object of faith. In New Age and Native religious practice, sage is a form of prayer to a demonic entity not the FATHER GOD. That is the difference. Yes, our Bible is clear. When we make prayer to some other god (little g), we are praying to the demonic. And when we pray to the demonic, we invite their power and their influence into the situation. Jesus was most clear. You do not drive out evil with evil or demonic with demonic. It is through the GOOD GOD that evil is removed and His presence is invited. That is the whole of the book of Exodus. It is about inviting the presence of the GOOD GOD.
“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”
Acts 10:38 NKJV
Don’t get incensed about incense. Do teach. Jesus directed us to lead people to Him and then teach them. We need to teach the consecrated life in Christ. That means understanding what is happening in our world and approaching it with wisdom that is from above that is open and instructive. So the next time you see someone using sage or they ask about using it to clear their mind or home or a location, teach with wisdom. Direct them to solid faith in Christ that is more powerful than any instrument of prayer, though incense and oil are certainly Christian practices of value, it is faith in Christ that does the trick. It is better to chase out evil than to invite more.
We are family
I love you. Jesus loves you.
The Holy Spirit is a Great Guide and Wisdom in All Things.
Pastor Phil, thethinkdirector