At the inauguration of the Temple built for God by King Solomon, he expresses the following: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” How in the world can an infinite God possibly be contained in a finite physical building?
King Solomon makes a good point. One that may have better been brought up before he built the Temple! But of course, his question is really rhetorical, and he is simply teaching us a very important lesson about every place of worship for all of time.
If we think that any place of worship is the address of God, then we are gravely mistaken. Because God isn’t contained to any one space. God is everywhere. God is in your living room, in your bedroom, even waiting with you in line as the person in front of you takes way too long to pay for their groceries. As a great rabbi, the Rebbe of Kotzk, once said when asked where God is, “God is everywhere you let Him in!”
So if God is everywhere, then what was the purpose of building Him a home? And why do we still build places for prayer today?
Places of worship are like a pair of glasses. They are a window. They allow us to see and experience God in a way that we could not have otherwise. Although God Himself is everywhere, we experience His presence more in some places than others.
In today’s places of worship, and a million times more in the Temples that once stood, a person was in the presence of God in a much more concrete way than if he were anywhere else. Through this greater encounter with God, that person would be changed. His prayers would be changed. They would be more powerful and more passionate. And that is why they were more likely to be answered. Not because God is any different in a house of worship, but because we are different in such holy spaces, and our prayers become more aligned with God’s will for us when we are more connected to Him.
In our hectic daily lives it is possibly more important than ever to make the time to visit our places of worship on a regular basis. We stand only to benefit from such encounters. However, at the same time we need to remember that God is with us and prayer is always an option — no matter where we are.