The rate at which scandals, hatreds, wickedness, and some manipulative attitudes are manifested by some in the society, has led some persons to question the effectiveness of the Church in the lives of the faithful. They also wonder if there was a need for one to attend Church programs rather than commune with God in the corners of one’s room and avoid people with questionable characters. Some have even gone to the extent of using the Scriptures to justify the reasons why they think it is better to stay back at home, rather than gather in the church for prayer and worship.
If one may ask: “Since God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and He is everywhere (Jer. 23: 23-24), is there still a need for one to seek Him in the Church when Christ had instructed us pray to God in the corners of our room (cf. Mt. 6:6)? Does the Scripture not say that those who would worship God, should worship Him in Spirit and in truth? (cf. Jn. 4:4) Why should one necessarily go to Church to pray and worship God if one could actually be truthful and faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit at all times? Can God, who is a Spirit, be confined to a house? These questions and many more bother the minds of some. Thus, with the aid of the below stated tenets, we shall be looking at the necessity of communing with God in His house.
WHO IS GOD?
It is very important to know who God is before asking if He has a house. According to the Scriptures and the Church’s Magisterium, God is a Spirit (cf. John 4:24); the creator of heaven and earth (cf. Gen. 1:1); the maker of all things, visible and invisible (cf. Col. 1:16, cf. Nicene Creed); the unmoved mover (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas’: Five ways); the beginning and the end or all things (cf. Rev. 22:13); the all-knowing God (cf. Ps. 139); the all-loving God (cf. 1Jn. 4:7- 8), and the ever present God (cf. Jeer. 23:24). God is the only Being who Is.
DOES GOD HAVE ANY HOUSE?
Since God is a Spirit, can He be confined to a house? This question is often raised whenever and wherever the issue of praying to God in the corners of one’s room as against going to Church to pray, is being discussed. Some persons even go further to state that since spirits are outside space and time, how can God, who is a spirit, be restricted to a building? God is a Spirit and has instructed His creatures to build Him a sanctuary so that He can dwell there (cf. Ex. 25:8).
This sanctuary and every other places where God’s name is being remembered, shall be places where He would come and bless His creatures (cf. Ex. 20:24-26). Those who go to sanctuary of God to commune with Him shall be joyous (cf. Is. 56:7), for those who live in the house of God and praise His name all day long are happy (cf. Ps. 84.4), because the house of God shall always be called a house of prayer (cf. Is. 56:7; Jer. 7:9-10; Mt. 21:13). Thus, God, though a spirit, is everywhere and dwells within a house set apart for Him as a place for prayers and worship.
THE CHURCH AS THE HOUSE OF GOD
The Church was founded by Christ on the rock of St. Peter whom Christ has entrusted the keys of the kingdom, as the symbol of authority to govern the new people of God in the house of God (cf. Mt. 16:17-18; CCC553). The Church, in the words of St. Paul, is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth and a manifestation of the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 3:10). Thus, Christ is the invisible head of the church while the Pope, who is the Vicar of Christ, is the visible head of the Church.
The Church, as the House of God and the house of prayer, refers to a place where the community of the redeemed, gather together to pray, to share the word of God, to take part in the breaking of the bread and in the sacraments. This is why the Church is seen as the Universal Sacrament of Salvation (cf. CCC 774) and the liturgical assembly of the new people of God (cf. CCC 751). It is important to note too that the Church also refers to the people of God bonded in love. Thus, within the Church, the community of the believers communicates with God, shares their faith, manifests the gifts of the spirit of God and shares in the love of God.
THE NECESSITY OF THE CHURCH TO CHRISTIAN PIETY
When one asks if it is relevant to go to church to pray rather than pray in the corners of one’s room, one is simply asking the question: “What is the relevance of the Church to Christian spirituality?” The Church is relevant because it is a place set apart for God. It is a place where the redeemed gather to share the word of God and take part in the sacraments which are meant for our salvation. It is a place where the different gifts of the Holy Spirit are fully manifested. The Church is God’s house of prayer where God blesses His children (cf. Ex. 20:24- 26). Though Christ instructed that we go to the corners of our rooms to pray, nevertheless, the Church is still a place for prayers too because it is a place that is set apart for prayers, with ministers who have the authority and the educational qualifications to interpret the scriptures.
The Church is a place where the people of God, gifted by the Holy Spirit, manifest the love of God. There is no place in the scriptures where God has said that He has set apart the corners of our rooms as houses of prayers, but God did say that His house shall be called the house of prayer (cf. Is. 56:7; Jer. 7:9-10; Mt. 21:13). It is necessary to know that the major reason why Jesus Christ instructed us to go to the corners of our rooms to pray was to shun hypocrisy since the Pharisees loved to pray in open places for the people to see them as pious men. Thus, going to the corners of one’s room is not a replacement for the house of God which is called the House of Prayer.
We all need the Church because the Church has the fullness of salvation. It is a house of prayer, basically set apart for the worship and the praise of God. Though Christ had instructed us to pray in the corners of our rooms as a way of shunning hypocrisy, this injunction of Christ, nevertheless, is not an alternative or a displacement for the house of God which shall be called the house of prayer. No matter the reasons we have that make us believe that we can serve God from the corners of our rooms rather than go to church to pray, do know this, the Church of Christ is the house of God and the house of God shall always be called the house of prayer.