Accumulating merit is not accumulating anything for our own ego trip. Rather it is trying to relate with what is sacred or holy. We are making a connection with sacred areas of reality: the very idea of the teachings, or dharma, and the existence of basic sanity. This is represented by works of art, images, statues, paintings, books, all kinds of symbols and all kinds of colors. Creating merit is associating ourselves and working with such situations, putting in as much of our effort and energy as we can. A sense of veneration becomes very important.
From “Transformation of Bad Circumstances,” in Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness, page 56.