David is bringing his prayers and praise to God. He begins by asking God to recognize them in the most positive way possible. So he compares them to the altar of incense that burns just outside the Holy of Holies, and the altar of Sacrifice that’s the first object as a worshipper approaches God to worship Him. David says that his worship is his offering. He writes, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” The altar of sacrifice is there to illustrate that man does not approach God empty handed, but he brings an offering.

David knows that the offering on the altar is the deepest illustration of a person’s honorable heart. What God gives the worshipper acknowledges when he gives back. It’s the measure of a fervent heart. We come with something in our hands to mark the depth of our love. David wants the sincerity of his prayers seen through his offerings. He knows, as J. S. Baxter wrote, It is not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they are; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the logic of our prayers, now argumentative they may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be—which God cares for. Fervency of spirit is that which availeth much.

When the offering is made the worshipper now stands before the Lord with empty hands. This is the picture of total dependence on God for his provision of those things that really matter in life. An unknown poet writes, “One by one he took them from me, All the things I valued most, Until I was empty-handed; Every glittering toy was lost. And I walked earth’s highway grieving, In my rags and poverty, Till I heard His voice inviting, “Lift your empty hands to me.” So I turned my hands toward heaven, And He filled them with a store Of His own transcendent riches, Till they could contain no more, Then at last I comprehended, With my stupored mind and dull, That God could not pour His riches Into hands already full.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)