Many Christians leave their religion at church when they leave service on Sunday mornings. They got their “Jesus-fix” and are ready to go back to their normal lives. Some continue to keep their minds on God throughout the week and attempt to carve out a place for Jesus in their everyday life. Christians often shoot themselves in the foot here. Many Christians continue to be oblivious to the unchristian activities they practice or surround themselves with when they are away from church. They come home, put their Bible away and hop on Facebook to criticize their least favorite family member’s profile picture or gleefully follow the scandal of their favorite celebrity’s affair, divorce and subsequent child-custody court case. Then, they post a few Bible verses and a couple selfies then call it a day.While many Christians live this sort of lifestyle, there are those who truly try to live by the morals they profess to hold every Sunday. They try not to judge, and if they do, they keep their judgments to themselves rather than posting them anonymously on social media. They try to remain humble rather than plastering their face all over Instagram with various hashtags declaring that their life is #awesome! They hit the street and actually work for the causes they believe matter rather than just remaining a keyboard warrior and posting tweets, statuses and comments in support of their favorite charity.
Both the forgetful Christians and the deeply devout could benefit from having a space in their home that serves to remind them to hold true to their commitment to God. Then, every time they saw it, they could remember how they are supposed to be living. This might be all that they need to put down the phone and stop roasting username LovinLife47 about their political beliefs or to make them think twice before posting that sultry picture on Facebook.
In addition to reminding Christians of what they are actually supposed to be doing, a space dedicated to God can help Christians remember to spend time with God outside of Sunday service. The excuse that there is nowhere to sit down and pray is stripped away. There is a quiet space in the corner, under the window or by the door, that has been specifically dedicated to religious practice. There is a cushion to sit on and a Bible on the table with an invisible sign saying “read me!” This space may be able to be cordoned off with a shower curtain or room dividing screen in order or provide the person using it some privacy to simply be with God. It may also always be open to the rest of the room so that there is never any question of hiding the space and its reminders away.
Such spaces act as more than simply passive reminders. Other members of the family may be inspired to use the space and revisit their relationship with God after watching someone they love use this space regularly. Children may become more interested in their faith or their parents’ faith if they have somewhere to practice it. While going to church every Sunday may be enough for a devout adult to be reminded of their values and morals, a week is a very long time to a child.
For families with small children, spaces set aside for prayer can also be an easy signal to children that their parent is not to be bothered at the moment. This can give parents who are looking to reconnect with God a few minutes of peace to do just that rather than having to squeeze prayer in around wrestling the two year old into the tub or making sure the 15 year old does not try to sneak out of the house in clothing that they are not allowed to wear to school. Rather than keeping one eye on the children or constantly listening with one ear to see if a child needs them, Christians with a specific space set aside for prayer can focus entirely on revitalizing their connection to Jesus Christ.
This prayer space sounds pretty nice, right? Some privacy, a reminder and a place dedicated solely to connecting with Christ all sounds wonderful, but many Christians balk when they are told that such a space is made with a home altar.
Often considered to be a staple of Hindu and Pagan households, home altars or home shrines are simply spaces set aside for spiritual thought, meditation, Scripture readings and prayer. Christians often have very simple home altars composing of a cushion or mat to sit or kneel on; a shower curtain, room divider screen or simply strategically placed furniture to set the area aside from the rest of the living space; and a table with a Bible, cross or crucifix and a few candles on it. Catholics may also include statues of a patron saint or an icon, but Protestants are less likely to use such things.
There is nothing unchristian about having a home altar. It is a place meant for prayer and good Christian worship. It is a place for reading Scripture and occasionally singing a quiet hymn. It is not idolatrous to decide that it would be helpful to have a space in a busy house that is deliberately constructed to grant a devout Christian a few moments alone with God. Given how busy modern life is, a home altar is a way for people to slow down and be with God rather than rushing from one thing to the next. There is a certain defiance of secular culture in the deliberate choice to set valuable space in the home aside for a person to be with God. People rarely make enough time for God these days, so it may be a welcome change to have a space that is meant purely for the Lord.