Incense was used by Jewish people before the time of Jesus as a way of symbolizing their prayers. “Let my prayer come like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice,” says verse two of Psalm 141. In Exodus 30:1-10, God describes how the altar of incense is to be constructed in the sanctuary and calls for an incense offering in the morning, plus another in the evening.
Incense was used by pagan religions before Judaism began. Christianity simply adopted the custom, which is observed by Catholics and Orthodox Christians. In the sixteenth century, most Protestant groups rejected incense, along with statues and vestments.