Apocalypse Explained #325

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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325. Which are the prayers of the saints. That this signifies, from which is worship, appears from the signification of the prayers of the saints, as denoting worship from spiritual good. By prayers, in the internal sense, are meant all things of worship; and by the saints, spiritual things; for in the Word they are called saints who are in the Lord's spiritual kingdom, and just, they who are in His celestial kingdom (as may be seen above, n. 204). But in the internal sense of the Word by saints are not meant saints, but things holy, for saints involve persons, and in the internal sense everything connected with personality is put off, for things alone constitute it (concerning which see above, n. 270); and that the angels, because they are spiritual, think abstractedly from persons, see also above, n. 99, 100. In this the internal sense of the Word is distinguished from its external sense, which is the sense of the letter; and because by saints are thus meant things holy, and by holy in the Word is meant the Divine truth, which proceeds from the Lord, and makes His spiritual kingdom (as may be seen above, n. 204); therefore by things holy are meant spiritual things, and by the prayers of the saints, worship from spiritual good. That worship from this good is meant by the prayers of the saints, appears from this fact, that it is said they had golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and by incense are signified all things of worship which are from spiritual good (as was shown in the article just preceding); whence it follows, that the same is signified by the prayers of the saints.

(References: Revelation 5:8; The Apocalypse Explained 99-100, The Apocalypse Explained 204, 270)


[2] As also in David:

"Give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. Let my prayers be accepted before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the meat-offering of the evening; guard the door of my lips; let not mine heart decline to evil, to do wicked deeds in impiety with the men who work iniquity; for hitherto my prayers [are] in their evils" (Ps. cxli. 1-5).

Here also prayers are called incense, and the lifting up of the hands is called a meat-offering; and this, because the same is signified by prayers as by incense, and the same by the lifting up of the hands as by a meat-offering. By incense is signified spiritual good, which is the good of charity towards the neighbour; and by meat-offering is signified celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord; thus by both worship is signified. And because prayers proceed not from the mouth, but from the heart by the mouth, and all worship which is from the heart is from the good of love and charity, for the heart signifies that, therefore it is also said, guard the door of my lips; let not mine heart decline to evil, to do wicked deeds in impiety. And because David is lamenting that evils hitherto have power against him, therefore he says, for hitherto my prayers are in their evils.

(References: Psalms 141:1-5)


[3] That prayers signify the same as incense, also appears elsewhere in the Apocalypse:

"Another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, together with the prayers of all the saints, upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense together with the prayers of saints, ascended up to the sight of God" (viii. 3, 4).

Because similar things are here signified by prayers as by incense, namely, worship from spiritual good, therefore it is said there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of the saints; also that the smoke of the incense ascended together with the prayers of the saints, to the sight of God. What is meant by worship from spiritual good shall first be explained, and afterwards that prayers signify such worship. Worship does not consist in prayers and in external devotion, but in a life of charity; prayers are only the externals thereof, for they proceed from the man by his mouth, therefore, according to the quality of the man as to his life, such are his prayers. It does not matter that a man bears himself humbly, that he kneels and sighs when he prays; these are external things, and unless the externals proceed from internals, they are only postures and sounds without life. In everything that a man gives utterance to there is affection, and every man, spirit, and angel is his own affection, for their affection is their life; it is the affection itself that speaks, and not the man without it; therefore, such as is the affection, such is the prayer. Spiritual affection is what is called charity towards the neighbour; to be in that affection is truly worship; prayer is the proceeding therefrom. Hence it is evident that the essential of worship is a life of charity, and the instrumental of it is posture and prayer; or, that the primary of worship is a life of charity, and its secondary is praying; from which it is evident that those who place all Divine worship in oral piety, and not in real piety, err greatly.

(References: Revelation 8:3-4)


[4] Real piety is to act in every work and in every function sincerely and rightly, justly and equitably, and this because it is so commanded by the Lord in the Word; for thus a man in every work he does looks to heaven and to the Lord, with whom he is thus conjoined. But to act sincerely and rightly, justly and equitably, solely from fear of the law, or of the loss of fame, or for the sake of honour and gain, and to think nothing of the Divine Law, of the precepts of the Word, and of the Lord, and yet to pray devoutly in temples, is external piety, which, however holy it may appear to be, still is not piety, but either hypocrisy, or something assumed from habit, or a persuasion that therein alone consists Divine worship. For such a man looks not from his heart to heaven and to the Lord, but only with the eyes, the heart regarding self and the world, and the mouth speaking from bodily habit only and memory; such a man is conjoined to the world and not to heaven, to himself and not to the Lord. From these considerations it is evident what piety is, also what Divine worship is, and that real piety is essential worship. Concerning this see also what is said in the work concerning Heaven and Hell, n. 222, 224, 358-360, 528-530; and in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 123-129, where these words occur: "Piety consists in thinking and speaking piously; in devoting much time to prayers; in humility at the time; in frequenting temples, and attending devoutly to the discourses there; in receiving the sacrament of the holy supper frequently every year; and in like manner the other parts of worship according to the appointments of the church. But the life of charity consists in wishing well and doing well to the neighbour; in acting in every work justly and equitably, from what is good and true, and similarly in discharging every duty; - in one word, the life of charity consists in the performance of uses. Divine worship consists primarily in the latter life, but secondarily in the former; he, therefore, who separates the one from the other, that is, who lives a life of piety, and not at the same time a life of charity, does not worship God. For a life of piety avails only as a life of charity is conjoined with it; for this is the chief thing, and such as the latter is, such is the former" (n. 124, 128).

(References: Heaven and Hell 222, 224, 358-360, 528-530; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 123-129, 124, 128)


[5] That heaven is insinuated by the Lord into the actual piety of man, and not into the oral or external piety separate therefrom, has been proved to me from much experience. For many were seen, who placed all worship in oral and outward piety, and in their actual life thought nothing further of the Lord's precepts in the Word, or that what is sincere and right, just and equitable, should be done from religion, thus from a spiritual origin, but only from regard to the civil law, and also the moral law, so that they might appear sincere and just for the sake of fame, and this on account of honour and gain, believing that by this means they would come into heaven before others. In accordance with their faith, therefore, they were raised into heaven; but when it was perceived by the angels, that they worshipped God with the mouth only, and not with the heart, and that their external piety did not proceed from actual piety, which pertains to the life, they were cast down by them, and afterwards were associated with those who were in a similar life with themselves, and were there deprived of their piety and sanctity, because these were interiorly defiled with evils of life. Consequently it was made evident, that Divine worship primarily consists in a life of charity, and secondarily in external piety.

[6] As essential Divine worship primarily consists in the life, and not in prayers, therefore, the Lord taught that, in praying, they were not to be given to much speaking and repetition, in the following words:

"When ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Do not therefore make yourselves like unto them" (Matt. vi. 7, 8).

Now because essential Divine worship consists primarily in a life of charity, and secondarily in prayers, therefore, by prayers, in the spiritual sense of the Word, is meant worship from spiritual good, that is, from the life of charity, for that which is primary is meant, in the spiritual sense, whereas the sense of the letter consists of things secondary, which are effects, and correspond.

(References: Matthew 6:7-8)


[7] Prayers are also mentioned in many passages of the Word; but because prayers proceed from the heart, and the quality of man's heart is according to his life of love and charity, therefore by prayers, in the spiritual sense, is meant that life, and the worship from it; as in the following passages.

In Luke:

"Watch ye all the time, praying that ye may be accounted worthy to flee from those things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man" (xxi. 36; Mark xiii. 33).

By watching all the time, is signified to procure to themselves spiritual life (as may be seen above, n. 187). Therefore praying is also mentioned, because praying is the effect of that life, or its external, which avails in proportion as it proceeds from the life, for they constitute a unity like the soul and body, and like the internal and external.

(References: Luke 21:36; Mark 13:33; The Apocalypse Explained 187)


[8] In Mark:

"Jesus said, All things which ye ask in prayer, believe that ye shall receive them, and then it shall be done unto you. When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any" (xi. 24, 25).

Here, also, in the spiritual sense, by praying, desiring, and asking, is meant the life of love and charity; for to those who are in the life of love and charity, it is given from the Lord what they should ask; therefore they ask nothing but what is good, and that is done unto them; and because faith is also from the Lord, therefore, it is said, "believe that ye shall receive them." And because prayers proceed from the life of charity, and are according to it, therefore, in order that it may be done according to the prayers, it is also said, "when ye stand praying forgive, if ye have ought against any."

(References: Mark 11:24-25)


[9] That by, when ye stand praying, is signified, when they are in Divine worship, is evident also from this consideration, that the same that is here said of those who pray, is also said of those who offer a gift upon the altar, in Matthew:

"If thou offer a gift upon the altar, and rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave the gift before the altar, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming offer the gift" (v. 23, 24).

By offering a gift upon the altar is signified all Divine worship, for the reason, that Divine worship with that nation consisted chiefly in offering burnt-offerings and sacrifices, by which were therefore signified all things of worship (see the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 214, 221). Hence it is evident that the same is signified by praying or asking, as by offering a gift upon the altar, namely, worship from the good of love and charity.

(References: Matthew 5:23-24; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 214, 221)


[10] In the same:

"Jesus said, It is written, my house shall be called the house of prayers, but ye have made it a den of thieves" (xxi. 13; Mark xi. 17; Luke xix. 46).

By the Lord's house is signified the church, and by prayers worship therein; and by a den of thieves the profanation of the church and of worship; from this opposite sense it is also clear, that prayers signify worship from the good of love and charity.

(References: Luke 19:46; Mark 11:17; Matthew 21:13)


[11] In David:

"I cried unto God with my mouth, and he was exalted with my tongue. If I have regarded iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear; but God hath heard; he hath attended to the voice of my prayers" (Ps. lxvi. 17-19).

Because prayers are according to the nature of man's heart, and, consequently, prayers offered up when the heart is in evil are not true prayers of worship, it is therefore said, "If I have regarded iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear," by which is signified that He will not receive such worship. The heart of man is his love, and the love of man is his very life, consequently, a man's prayers are according to the nature of his love, or according to the quality of his life; hence it follows that prayers signify the life of his love and charity, or that this life is meant by prayers, in the spiritual sense.

(References: Psalms 66:17-19)


[12] Many other passages might be adduced. But because a man does not know that his life and prayers make one, and consequently perceives that prayers alone are meant when they are mentioned in the Word, therefore they are omitted. Moreover, a man continually prays when he is in the life of charity, although not with the mouth yet with the heart; for that which is of the love is continually in the thought, even when he is unconscious of it; according to what is said in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem (n. 55, 57). Hence it is also evident that prayer, in the spiritual sense, denotes worship from love. But those do not relish these things; indeed they think contrary to them, who place piety in prayers and not in the life; neither do these know in what real piety consists.

(References: Revelation 5:8; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 55-57)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 320, 391, 410, 472, 493, 629, 700, 807, 975, 1193, 1223

Other New Christian Commentary

Explanation of Matthew 21:22 1

Ask 1

Pray 1

Holy and just 1

Resources for parents and teachers

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Prayer is speech with God. Praying opens the door to the Lord in our lives and has the power to bring us closer to Him.
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