An altar in various religions is a place, table, or  piece of furniture near which people bow down to the highest representative of their religion, give thanks, pray, and offer gifts of reverence. I, too, have been standing in front of various altars, lighting candles, and connecting myself with superior beings or principles.
Since my teenage years when I started meditating, I enriched my meditation place with pictures, photos or objects. At some point, a wise man told me that I could as well give away my worries and successes, because both are part of life, but not really mine. In other words, I am not my problem, but much more. And I am not my goal, but much more. That impressed me a lot, and I’ve gotten into the habit of symbolically placing certain issues through a photo or note with words on it, or mentally in front of an actual as well as an inner altar. This helps me not to think about the same thing over and over again. With this act I give the request full of confidence into the great hands of fate and of life. Light, fire, candles are for me the most powerful and important components of an altar.
My other method of surrendering and releasing a challenge or energizing and affirming a desire is to use gems that represent the element of earth. For example, I have just received a reminder from the tax office, due to some missing numbers and the wording and energy of this letter sounds negative, so I set it down on my altar and put some gems on it until the matter clarifies. I didn’t put it away in a drawer where I could forget it but it is also not in my head any more taking up energy.

With love