In the Old Testament times, the great saints marked their encounters with God by constructing an altar to Him. Abraham did this several times, as did Isaac and Jacob. Moses built God a tabernacle and David desired to build God a temple. These structures’ sole role was to be a place where the Presence of God intersected with the presence of people.
In the New Testament, Paul writes that because of Christ, our bodies are now a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and our hearts are the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of Christ dwells (Eph. 3:17). So the expression that a church building is “God’s house” is a misnomer: God doesn’t live in a building, but He does choose to dwell in the hearts of men and women who have been redeemed by Christ our Savior.
This is a great truth. However, it is a truth that is ignored by and large by most Christians today. We live in a day and age where the presence of God resides in our own being, yet we are hard pressed to find the time to meet Him there. We would rather seek Him in a church service or a Bible Study (which are not bad), but we forget the most profound place where we can find Him; the “Temple” that He paid for with His very life so that we can encounter Him anytime, all the time – the altar of our hearts
You might ask: how do I meet God in the altar of my heart? Jesus answers this question in Matthew 6:6
When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Jesus models this in Mark 1:35
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
The way we meet God in the altar of our hearts is to find a quiet place where we can spend time alone with Him. I call this “Personal Worship Time.”
During my Personal Worship Time, I spend about an hour or so in prayer, Bible reading and journaling … all by myself with God. Now some of you might be thinking: isn’t that a “devotional” or “quiet time”? My answer is “it depends.” It depends on whether one’s focus is on being with Jesus or on accomplishing a task. One can read the Bible, journal and even pray but not be focused on the Lord at all. Many Christians view their devotional time as something to check off their “to do” list.
A Personal Worship Time is when praying is really talking with God, not just mumbling off a bunch of prayer requests. Personal Worship Time is when Bible reading is intent on listening to God’s voice, not an intellectual analysis of Scripture construct or digging up some profound theological ideas. Personal Worship Time is when journaling is the seeking of God’s will in the midst of my experiences, readings and encounters, not just a recantation of yesterday’s activities.
Personal Worship Time is where I really, tangibly offer up my body as a living sacrifice to the Lord. I find that I have to offer myself at least daily to God, because it is amazingly easy for “living sacrifices” to crawl off the altar!
Personal Worship Time is transforming because it plugs me back into the flow of God’s will. I find that the days where I spend Personal Worship Time with God are much more powerful and fruitful than those days when I neglect this time. If you find that your life is listless, purposeless and fruitless, it is probably because you have not spent time alone with God with any kind of regularity.
Every follower of Christ needs to have Personal Worship Time, just as every human being needs to eat, drink and sleep each day. You can go without those things for a little while, but pretty soon you will get sick and eventually, die. In the same way, neglecting our Personal Worship Time with God literally takes away spiritual life from our souls.
I encourage you to set apart 30 minutes to an hour each day to spend alone with Jesus. You will soon see that this is the best 30-60 minutes you can invest in. However, expect your commitment to this to be challenged by the fury of hell. The last thing Satan wants you to do is to spend time with Jesus. So be firm in your resolve. Have a friend hold you accountable and pray for your Personal Worship Time. Ask God to protect your time with Him from distractions and interruptions. Your whole life worship begins by regularly spending time in the Holy of Holies of your heart.
This is the air I breathe: Your holy presence living in me. This is my daily bread: Your very word spoken to me. And I’m desperate for You, I’m lost without You.
(“Breathe” by Marie Barnett)