MANY people regularly go to a religious building of some sort to pray to God. Others make long pilgrimages to such places. Do you feel that you must go to a temple, shrine, or church to pray to God? Or do you feel that you can speak to him at any time or at any place? What does the Bible say?
At the start of human history, there were no religious buildings. A beautiful garden was the home of our original parents. (Genesis 2:8) From there they were able to communicate with their Creator, Jehovah God. Later, as the human family grew in number, righteous men, such as Noah, “walked with the true God”—all without the aid of religious edifices. (Genesis 6:9) They were men of prayer who loved Jehovah and merited his approval.
God Does Not Dwell in Handmade Buildings
The faithful men of old knew that the Creator of the earth and the vast universe does not dwell in handmade structures. “Will God truly dwell with mankind upon the earth?” asked wise King Solomon. “Look! Heaven, yes, the heaven of the heavens themselves, cannot contain you,” he rightly acknowledged. (2 Chronicles 6:18) Granted, the ancient Israelites had a tabernacle and later a temple where they gathered for annual religious festivals according to God’s Law. (Exodus 23:14-17) Yet, they could pray to God at any time—when shepherding their flocks, working in their fields, spending time together as a family, or enjoying moments of solitude.—Psalm 65:2; Matthew 6:6.
Likewise, we can pray to God anywhere and anytime. Our model, Jesus Christ, often went to quiet, private places for prayer. (Mark 1:35) For example, on one occasion “he went out into the mountain to pray, and he continued the whole night in prayer to God.”—Luke 6:12.
Of course, as a Jew, Jesus faithfully attended religious festivals at the temple in Jerusalem. (John 2:13, 14) Nevertheless, he foretold a time when the temple would no longer be the center of true worship. When talking with a Samaritan woman near a mountain in Samaria, where her people had a temple, Jesus said: “The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father.” Then he added that true worshippers would “worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:21, 23.
Yes, Jesus’ focus was, not on structures of brick and mortar, but on true worship rendered from a sincere heart. But did that mean that Jesus’ followers, who were later called Christians, would worship God only in private? (Acts 11:26) No, and for good reasons.
God’s People Are a Spiritual Family
God’s true servants are a family—a spiritual family. (Luke 8:21) A good family does many things together, such as enjoying a meal, and this strengthens the family bonds. The same is true in a spiritual sense. Christian meetings are like a spiritual feast in that they nourish the inner person and strengthen spiritual ties. The Christian apostle Paul wrote: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another.”—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
True worshippers, therefore, recognize that the congregation plays an important role, for it enables each member to develop spiritual qualities that cannot be fully developed in isolation. These qualities include love, forgiveness, kindness, mildness, and peace.—2 Corinthians 2:7; Galatians 5:19-23.
Where did the early Christians gather for fellowship and worship? Often, they met in private homes. (Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15) For example, when writing to a fellow Christian, the apostle Paul also addressed his letter to “the congregation that is in your house.”*—Philemon 1, 2.
Likewise today, God’s people do not need ornate religious edifices but places that are comfortable and able to accommodate all who attend. Jehovah’s Witnesses have such places, which they call Kingdom Halls. In fact, it is quite possible that there is a Kingdom Hall in your area. These buildings are functional and modest, and the meetings held there are simple—they include song, prayer, and Bible discussions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses cherish their private, intimate moments with God. Hence, they spend time each day in prayer, both as families and privately as individuals. “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you,” says James 4:8.
The original Greek word for “congregation” is rendered “church” in some English Bibles.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
● Does God dwell in handmade buildings?—2 Chronicles 6:18.
● Where did Jesus spend a night in prayer?—Luke 6:12.
● Why do true worshippers gather together?—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
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Are your prayers more likely to be heard in certain locations?