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The offering on the alter of incense was regarded as the most holy and essential part of the daily morning and evening services. At each service of “burnt offering,” or “sacrifice” (2 Chron. 31:3; Ezra 9:4, 5), a lamb was offered (Ex. 29:38–42) and a “the time of incense” was set (Luke 1:10; Ex. 30:7, 8). Day and night the holy incense spread its fragrance throughout the holy grounds of Gods’ Temple.
During these sacred times, all the Israelties offered their prayers whether in the temple grounds, at home, or in strange lands. As the incense ascended from the golden altar, the supplications of the people ascended to God (Rev. 8:3, 4; Ps. 141:2) asking for forgiveness and consecration.
At this service, the officiating priest prayed for the pardon of Israel’s sins and for the coming of the Messiah. It was a great privilege for the priest to serve before the alter of incense. This privilege usually came to each priest only once in a lifetime.
The priest chosen by lot to offer the incense chose two other priests to help him, one to remove the old coals from the altar and the other to lay new coals on it, taken from the altar of burnt offering. These two priests left the holy place after their work was done, and the priest chosen by lot then placed the incense upon the coals, and as he did so, made intercession for the people.
The cloud of incense ascended and filled the holy place and spread beyond the veil into the most holy place. The altar of incense was immediately before the veil, and although actually within the holy place, it was regarded as belonging to the most holy (Heb. 9:4).
In the earthly sanctuary, the golden altar was an altar of continuous mediation. And in the Heavenly Sanctuary where Christ’s is now ministering on behalf of the believers (Hebrews 9:11-10:12), the altar of incense presents the “prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8).
In His service,