Building an Altar

Val Thomas

I recently read an article written by Stuart Blount, Director of Ministry Elim UK, on the life of Abram and his pilgrimage.

Looking at Genesis 12:1-8, Stuart describes the journey of Abram’s daily walk and life of discovery with God. For me it was a helpful picture of our life in pilgrimage with God.

As a nomad, Abraham continually moved from one place to another. Something familiar to some of us perhaps as pioneer people. Every time Abraham arrived at a new place and he pitched his tent, the first thing he did was build an altar to the Lord. Stuart writes that this is “A significant example of the lifestyle he lived and the priorities he established for his relationship with God. It is interesting that God didn’t ask Abraham to build an altar, he chooses to do so.” Worshipping God was really important to Abraham and Stuart suggests that it was not just about singing, but about building an altar.

He says that worship isn’t what we sing but what we build with our lives and that those who wish to be near God, build altars. Am I able, in my times before the Lord on my own, to just be me, open no pretence? To be who I really am? How often have I relied upon a really uplifting church service or prayer meeting to meet with God?

We all, it is said, have a God shaped hole in our hearts – a need to worship, something of value to give ourselves to. Abraham’s life shows us that his highest value was to spend time with God and follow Him, even though it meant leaving everything familiar and the majority of his family behind. Abraham says, “The highest value in my life is to walk with God.” God wants us to build an altar in our life, a place where we can meet with Him. Just Him and Me.

Altars are also built from the broken pieces of life. In Exodus 20:24-25 Moses built an altar out of earth and stone in the wilderness where he was. In Genesis 28:10-19 Abraham’s grandson Jacob, on the run from his family, finds a stone for a pillow and whilst he slept, he dreamt about angels and a ladder. Upon waking he says, “God is in this place – truly. And I didn’t even know it!” He was terrified. He whispered in awe, “Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God’s House. This is the Gate of Heaven.” Then he takes the stone pillow, stands it up and pours oil over it naming the place Bethel (House of God). God met Jacob where he was, with all the emotions he was going through and Jacob realised it and built an altar.

Stuart writes that: “The altars of old where God met His people were built by people who came in desperation before God, altars that were saturated with the tears of human experience. Not grand places but private places of solitude before God. God is looking for an honest heart devoted to Him not just a beautiful location.” At times it can be difficult to build an altar with all the rubble and rubbish of our lives, to talk to God about our difficult experiences, our painful times. But as we do, as we worship through it, we are building our own altar.

I found it reassuring to read, “At times we need to ask ourselves ‘When was the last time I was alone before God, when was the last time I built an altar of surrender.’ We know with our God we can gather those broken things from our life and come before Him in our heart, even kneeling physically before Him, and just honestly open our hearts in surrender to Him. Knowing with confidence that He WILL meet with us there.”

Sometimes in public times of worship, it is not always easy to really respond to God to express the real depths of my heart. But in the solitude of my own space, alone with Him, the Almighty, where I am known and loved deeply, He enables me to build my altar of pain, sacrifice and love to Him. This always leads to worship, peace and new strength for whatever He is asking me to do for Him.

Share this Article

Get Involved

Turn your belief into action and be the helping hand that our communities are reaching for. Will you join us?

Find out how


Your generosity is transforming the lives of those who need it most. Together we can achieve so much.

Donate now