OK ... I must admit that I (and probably you) have treated God and prayer like some kind of cosmic vending machine. Put the prayer in and expect God to send out the result I want. But that wouldn't be letting God be in control ... that is me in control. That is not how prayer is intended to work.
Revelation 8 is an example of more accurate view of prayer. In this view prayer is presented as an offering to God. It is both an act of worship and an act of submission to God's will. The prayer happens in front of the altar of incense and the image is of the prayers as a sweet fragrance wafting up to God. In essence the prayer of "God's holy people" in Revelation is not an expression of something we do. It is rather something we are. It is a laying-bare of our lives, our joys, our hurts, our hopes, our fears, our inner self before a holy God and saying ... "Daddy ... you see me and all I am ... only you can make this good and right and only you can give hope, peace, healing and grace in the midst of a truly messed-up world."
The audience hearing John's message didn't have to look far to see that messed-up world. Their country was under foreign control, they were oppressively taxed, their own leaders/shepherds had sold out the people for power, position, control and political voice. Ezekiel (Ch. 34) had predicted both this selling out and God's solution of sending a shepherd that would rightly lead the people out of this darkness.
What can we learn? When we pray we pray for God's will (note this is the entire focus of the Lord's Prayer). When we pray we pray in submission to God's better knowledge and wisdom. When we pray we lay ourselves bare and ask God, not our plans, to sort out our messed-up lives. When we pray we ask God to consume (in us) what is not Christ-like (it is an offering/sacrifice). When we pray we submit to God's use of us as the means by which God will lead this fallen world to Him and we ask, as intercessors, that God will use our prayer to use us and any other means within His will to make a difference for another person/situation. Robert Mulholland (Revelation, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Tyndale:2011) writes ... "Then the disruptive, disturbing, troubling, transforming presence of God will become incarnate in and through our lives."
Isn't is wonderful and scary that the power of prayer is manifested through God's Church ... that's us! Randy