In many religions, the direction of prayer is an important one. In fact, a specific direction of prayer is not intended for Christians – is it? In which direction do Christians actually pray?
Christians do not pray in any particular direction. If you want to use a directional indication, the direction would be “toward God.” An indication of east, west, south, north is not given biblically, but is tradition.
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Which direction should we face while praying?
First of all, when it comes to Christian prayer, you have to understand that a Christian is not bound to certain objects, places or even rituals with his prayer. There are even Christians who say that you don’t even have to speak to pray.
No particular posture of prayer is necessary to talk to God. Just the belief that God is listening to you is enough as a condition. That is, prayer with God becomes a very personal matter. Prayer is not simply “performed,” but there is a certain intimacy involved.
Therefore, every prayer of a Christian is very individual – and so is the direction in which it is prayed. The vast majority of Christians do not pay attention to the direction in which they are facing. If one would absolutely like to indicate a direction, then it would be:
Because there God is and Christians may step into the proximity of God.
Christians pray towards the East – what’s that all about?
Of course, with such an ancient religion as Christianity, there is always a large amount of tradition. These traditions are often adopted and then presented as the only correct ones.
This is the case with praying to the East.
This has the following historical background:
In the Bible there is a prophecy about Jesus Christ, who announced to come “from the East”. Since the coming of Jesus Christ will be a very important event for all people (according to Christians), the buildings are directed to the east.
Probably it was also the case that the early Christians actually prayed in a certain direction – in this case east. The exact background for this practice is not known today, but the following two reasons are given as the most common cause:
- The background is the coming again of Jesus Christ on the Last Day “in the East”, as just described. In addition, certain early Catholic customs, concerning seats, contributed a certain symbolism to represent the priests as Christ’s representatives on earth.
- The other reason is related to the Jewish background of Christianity. Before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (that is, before Jesus was on earth), the only place to meet God was the great temple in Jerusalem (of which only a wall remains today). To have a chance of God hearing you, you had to pray in the direction of the temple – better yet, be in the temple. So the synagogues (“churches” of Jews) were built in the direction of the temple – and this tradition was taken over into Christian churches… and from Europe Jerusalem (where the temple stood) is in the east.
So whoever was in the church, and used it “normally”, prayed “automatically” in the direction of the East.
Why Christians Do NOT Have to Pray East or Any Other Direction
There is no particular direction of prayer for Christians – but why actually?
There are basically two reasons for this:
- There is no prescription in the Bible as to exactly what a prayer should look like in the posture of prayer. Jesus himself and the apostles did not give any instructions.
- We, as Christians, have the Holy Spirit as a direct contact for prayers directly within us. respectively He is directly on earth and not bound to a fixed place.
The Bible does not give any direction in which Christians must pray. Neither Jesus, nor the apostles (people who taught in Jesus’ name after Jesus was no longer on earth) set a direction for prayer. Instead, the focus is on an inner attitude toward God: With what inner attitude does one come before God (in prayer)? This determines the personal style of prayer.
The second reason not to commit to a certain direction of prayer is the Holy Spirit. The only reason to pray in a certain direction would be to worship a certain “thing” in that direction. (In Islam, it is various sites in Mecca, for example). God, however, originated the Holy Spirit, who is located practically “everywhere”. Therefore, the location cannot be precisely defined. The Holy Spirit helps to establish the communication with God (to say it non-theologically). Since this is everywhere, there is no need for a specific direction of prayer.
Summary: In what direction do Christians pray?
The simplest summary: Christians pray in the direction of God. Everything else is tradition and is nowhere prescribed or necessary for “successful” prayer.