Castle Howard Chapel

At Castle Howard is a rather sumptuous, private chapel, within which the family of the Earls of Carlisle would have worshipped their God. It is too ornate for me, the grand materials and opulent décor are attempting to compete with heaven’s majesty, rather than pointing us towards it. Nevertheless, it surely helps others, and who am I to judge other men’s souls? Upon entering, there was a young man, fashionably attired, deep in prayer, head bowed, hands clasped. I considered taking my leave; it felt inappropriate to be taking photos while another was engaged in the weightier matters of communing with his Maker.

Closer observation revealed he was playing on his phone, perhaps waiting, bored, for some loved one to complete the previous room of the tour. Knowing he was watching some video or messaging some acquaintance, I snooped about the chapel with good conscience.

Many of us find it hard to pray. We might sit in the posture, we may appear to be in a state of pious communication with the Almighty, but what we are doing is little better than my fellow tourist to the old Howard Chapel. It is not that we offer strange fire, but no fire at all. When God truly works in the heart, it is not louder meetings or taller hand waves we offer at church, but a deeper prayer life. It becomes a pleasure to speak to God alone in prayer. We are not so distracted by things around us, for in sincere prayer, He begins to distract us from the pleasures and follies of the world. Then even the simplest of chapels and plainest of spaces will assume all the grandeur and majesty of heaven itself. 

Lord, my heart, a desert vast,
 Thy reviving hand requires;
 Sin has laid my vineyard waste,
 Overgrown with weeds and briars.
 Thou canst make this desert bloom;
 Breathe, O breathe, celestial Dove,
 Till it blow with rich perfume
 Of humility and love.

-Joseph Hart, Gadsby's Hymns, No 874