Is It Acceptable To Burn Incense During Our Prayers & Worship?

This is a very controversial subject. Many people have very strong feelings about this one way or another. But we should not be guided by our feelings, or our traditional doctrines or teachings of mankind. Instead, we should be led an accurate understanding of scripture and by the power of The Holy Spirit. Let's first examine the verses most commonly used to teach that we should not use incense as part of our worship and prayers. Then let's look at the verses and reasons why perhaps we can burn incense as part of our worship. Only by looking at both sides of the debate, can we make a well informed and correct decision.

Reasons Why People Say Incense is Forbidden

In the day of the Old Covenant, incense was strictly for use by Levitical priests only and was to be used in the temple only.

Exodus 30:
31 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.
32 Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.
33 Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
34 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
35 And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
37 And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.
38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.

The Creator even punished priests who burned incense in a wrong way.
Leviticus 10
:1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.
2 And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.
4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.
5 So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said.
6 And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled.
7 And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.
8 And the Lord spake unto Aaron, saying,
9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:
10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;
11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.
12 And Moses spake unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left, Take the meat offering that remaineth of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar: for it is most holy:
13 And ye shall eat it in the holy place, because it is thy due, and thy sons' due, of the sacrifices of the Lord made by fire: for so I am commanded.
14 And the wave breast and heave shoulder shall ye eat in a clean place; thou, and thy sons, and thy daughters with thee: for they be thy due, and thy sons' due, which are given out of the sacrifices of peace offerings of the children of Israel.

The Creator punished people who were not priests when they offered incense.
Numbers 16:16-18, 35-40
16 And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the Lord, thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow:
17 And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye before the Lord every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron, each of you his censer.
18 And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron.

35 And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.
36 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
37 Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed.
38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.
39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar:
40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the Lord said to him by the hand of Moses.

The Creator/GOD did not approve of people's constant repeating of vain incense and sacrifices when they were unrepentant sinners.
Isaiah 1:13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.

GOD commanded the incense, new moons and sabbaths. This verse is common misused by people who want to try to claim that GOD does NOT want us to obey Him in the keeping of the Sabbaths. But the context of the scripture shows that what GOD was really angry about is the people's hypocrisy of an outward appearance of worship while not repenting of their wickedness. Zech.14 shows that even after Jesus returns, we will STILL be required to keep the holy days. But GOD also demands repentance.

Sinful people burned incense on altars to false gods:
2 Chronicles 28:24-25 And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem.
25 And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers.

Wicked people burned incense to the serpent statue.
2 Kings 18:4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

Summary of case against incense:
1. Originally, incense was only for Levitical priests inside the temple and had to be done in a very strict manner.
2. It could not be used for just smelling good.
3. The recipe for incense was forbidden to be made by anyone other than the priests.
4. Idolaters used incense for worship of pagan gods. Pagans/Witches still do the same today.
5. The Roman Catholic Church & Catholic Orthodox churches still use incense, therefore we should not.
6. Even Nadab and Abihu, who were priests in the temple, were punished for presenting unclean/strange fire.

The Case For Incense Being Acceptable

Although the Levitical priesthood and the physical temple building and the old covenant is done away, we are now of The Melchizedek priesthood forever. We are sons of Jesus, not of Levite & Aaron. We ARE priests!
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

We are priests today. We perform the duties of priests when we spiritually apply/claim The Blood of Jesus, The Lamb of GOD, upon ourselves. We are sanctified by the blood of Jesus and by the Holy Ghost of Jesus. We are cleansed of our sins. We are pure and clean if we are repentant, baptized saints.

We are the temple of God.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

We can boldly enter behind the veil and approach the Throne of Grace.
Matthew 27:50-51 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

In the old covenant, only the high priest could enter behind the veil in the temple, and even then, only on the Day of Atonement. But now, any of us who are repentant, baptized saints, can now enter behind the veil, where it was previously forbidden to non-priests.

Heb.4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

We're not offering to false gods, just like Moses was not making graven images to false gods when he was instructed to make images of cherubim and serpents. Those images were tools to worship the true GOD. Our burning of incense is to the ONE TRUE GOD, not done in paganism.
Exod.25:18 And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.

Num.21:8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

We use many physical tools in our worship such as:
1. Bibles, even though Jesus is the real word of GOD.
2. Pray cloths, Acts 19:11-12.
3. Anointing oil, as a symbol of The Holy Ghost. James 5:14-16
4. Menorahs. In Revelation chapters 1-3, today's new covenant church is symbolized by the 7 candle menorah. We can use menorahs in our worship to help us to remember and think about the fact that we are little lights reflecting The Big Light of Jesus Christ. The fire and smoke from the menorahs perform similar actions of the incense, symbolizing our prayers ascending into Heaven.
5. Although there are some pagan crosses, pagan styles, used by many Babylonian churches who do wrongfully worship the cross, the true followers of GOD do not worship the cross, but rightfully use it only as a good reminder of his sacrifice for us. Click here for more information about the cross.
6. The Passover wine and unleavened bread as COMMANDED by Jesus.
7. Foot washing on Passover evening as commanded by Jesus.

Prayers & Incense in Heaven = Rev. 5 & 8, at the opening of the 1st and 7th Seals
Rev.5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

Rev.8:1-4 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

Even in Old Testament times, incense was symbolic of our prayers. They said spiritual prayers. But also used physical incense.
Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

In the Kingdom after Jesus returns, during the Millennium, and then later in the 100 years after the 2nd resurrection, we will be seen as symbolic of the Levitical priests, even though the Levitical priesthood is abolished. And people will symbolically be seen as "offerings", even though physical sacrifices were done away.
Isaiah 66:18-23
18 For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
19 And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
20 And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord.
21 And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the Lord.
22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.

In that same 1,100 years, incense will be offered worldwide, EVERYWHERE!

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.

Spirit of the Law Vs. Letter of the Law; WHY incense was originally limited to only priests:
During the times of the old covenant, only priests were allowed to burn incense to GOD because they were the only ones who were ceremonially/ritually clean enough to approach the presence of GOD via the washing of hands/clothes and animal sacrifices. But now, we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of GOD, Jesus Christ IF we have repented of our sins and been baptized into Christ Jesus and are living for Him in righteousness and not in pagan practices such as the ancient Islamic holidays known as Christmas and Easter which was embraced by the Roman and Orthodox Catholic churches and then passed down to the so called Protestant churches.

Summary of the Case of incense being acceptable:
* We ARE priests of an even more important/greater and permanent priesthood.
* In the old covenant, only the priests could apply the blood, or do sacrifices, or go behind the veil, but we do all of this spiritually in Jesus.
* The Blood of Christ sanctifies and cleanses us, thereby allowing us permission to approach Christ behind the veil with incense and worship.
* We use other physical tools in worship including wine, unleavened bread, bibles, menorahs/candles, anointing oil, prayer cloths, etc.
* We are already using menorah/candles representing prayers and light. We use these simply as tools to help our carnal minds touch the spiritual realm of GOD. We are NOT worshipping ANY false gods, nor following paganism or false religions. We are serving the Living GOD.
* We are performing what is symbolically represented in Heaven. The fire, smoke and smell of our prayers do NOT originate in Heaven. But they are being offered right here on Earth today during our worship. We recognize the greater spiritual reality of our prayers as symbolic sacrifices. We are not trying to perform physical sacrifices. But we use the tools given to us, to help us in our worship, which is a sweet smell to Jesus, both spiritually and physically combined.

GOD understands that we are in physical, weak temples, and that it helps us to think spiritually with the help of candles and incense. Science has documented that incense helps us with thinking more clearly and with focus & memory. It can help us to stay awake, or to relax us, or to help set us in the proper mood. Using herbs like Frankincense during worship services or during bible study can help us to remember the word of GOD. Many herbs can clean and purify the air, killing germs and viruses and bad odors. How can ANY of this be bad?
Just as we can use physical bibles and anointing oil, we can use physical incense to help us glorify The Father in JESUS Name.

Final Objection: But THEY use it, so we shouldn't.
Answer: But THEY also have SOME things right. They are not wrong on everything. The Catholics do know and proclaim that Jesus is GOD. They are right about that. And we must take communion, they are right, but they do it wrong. Just because Catholics and other pagans do something doesn't automatically make it wrong. We determine right and wrong by the scriptures and by the power of The Holy Spirit, NOT by who does or do not do something. Because everyone does something right and something wrong. The scripture and Holy Spirit is our measure, NOT people.

Health and Safety Considerations

-Do NOT use large amounts in locations not vented. Smoke is smoke, and is not good for people with asthma.
-Again, USE only in ventilated areas.
-Incense gets VERY HOT, and can melt or burn glass, plastic, etc. USE with caution! Do NOT burn yourself, nor your house down!
-Use only small amounts at one time. If you use too much, the fire or smoke can get out of control.
-Do NOT put incense in reach of children or pets. (Even when NOT burning. Incense is toxic when eaten.)
-Try to NOT use brands/products made or sold by pagan people or pagan companies. Look at the name of the company and person. Look at their symbols and beliefs. Do NOT buy from Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Witches, Pagans, Catholics, Orthodox, etc. It is better to just buy the one pound bags, or larger bags of herbs such as Frankincense. If you buy the incense sticks, it is too expensive, or it probably is full of toxic chemical and perfumes, or it's probably made by pagans. So the bags are a better, safer, more pure option. Even when buying bags of herbs, look at the names and symbols and do not buy from pagans. Of course, all companies are owned by sinners. We can't completely escape Babylon until Jesus comes. But we can do our best and avoid the worst.

Recommended Products:
(I do NOT get any money from the sells or referral of these products.)
-Frankincense #1: Frankincense 8 oz. bag at Amazon.
-OR Frankincense option #2: Other Frankincense optional product at Amazon.
-Charcoal to go under the incense: Charcoal briquettes/pucks/disc at Amazon, to lay the herbs on. You actually light the charcoal, not the incense.
-Incense holder: Stainless Steel, Windproof Ashtray at Amazon.

Less Smoke Option Without Charcoal
Instead of using charcoal, you could also lay your incense/frankincense in the above ash tray or in a very small stainless steel or cast iron cooking pot (sauce pan) and add water and cook/simmer it over a fire. For camping and long term use without electric and with the least amount of smoke, I recommend the following possible options for a miniature camp stove. Add your own cooking pot with handle or use the above ash tray without handle. I do NOT receive ANY money for the sales or recommendations of these products.
Camp stove #1.
Camp stove #2.

HOW TO USE with charcoal: Remove a tablet from the sealed roll and place in a censer or a heat-proof dish (deep metal ash tray).
Add metal lid to the ash tray.
Light the edge of the charcoal tablet with a long match or taper or long lighter. The tablet will then light across its surface. Wait a few minutes.
When charcoal is in full hot glow, carefully drop incense onto the top of the hot charcoal.

CAUTION: The tablet and incense should both be left to burn out and cool in the censer (ash tray). If the tablet and incense is to be extinguished before it is fully cooled, carefully pour add cold water into the ash tray to drown the fire, but expect lots of smoke! WARNING: When the tablet has been lit, do not handle it as it will cause a burn. Do not dispose of the ash remains in a waste paper bin as this may cause a fire. Do not hold the tablet in your hand when lighting or when burning. The recommended charcoal lights instantly. Incense may also pop and crackle and fly through the air, which is why I recommend the above ash try with open lid to enclose some flying particles. Use only small amounts of pure incense such as pure frankincense. Use only in well ventilated area. Do NOT leave unattended. Do NOT put within reach of pets and children. Ash tray does NOT have handles and is made of steel and therefore will be VERY hot. Do NOT touch ash tray after lighting incense or charcoal.

"Perfumes, wines and incenses make happy the heart..." Greek Septuagint, Proverbs 27:9

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