Did you know that if you Google, “How many hugs we need in a day”, there is actually an answer, and that that answer is 8? 8 hugs for maintenance, 12 for growth. Yeah, I’ll wait, go check it out for yourself. Done? No, come on now, stop crying. You must have at least a pillow lying around somewhere that you can hug for now. Really. Interestingly, I was doing perfectly fine with no hugs until I read this. Now I’m depressed. And I needed to spread the joy, so there. Oh, it’s not so bad. It’s not like there’s a pandemic happening and we’re supposed to practice social distancing and so couldn’t get hugs even if we wanted to. Oh wait.
Well, moving on then, I immediately searched, “how many times do we need to pray in a day” (this is not what I normally do on Google all day, please believe me), and I was treated to an answer from Quora by what I believe to be a highly confident and equally confused guy who claimed that, “For Christians, the five daily prayer times (called the kneelies) are among the most important obligations of the Christian faith.” Now, I have been a Christian for a while now, but this was the first time I was hearing about kneelies. I was intrigued. Apparently, kneelies are prayers done at 5 times of the day, and these prayers are individually called morny, noony, afternoony, setty, and nighty. Long pause. This was getting ridiculous. There was no way this was actually a thing. But he sounded so confident… Yeah, you already know where this is going. I cast a furtive glance around me. The coast was clear. I cautiously typed in, “morny, noony, afternoony, setty, and nighty”, waited a second for the page to load, and then immediately closed the browser window, which was quickly filling up with website links to purchase assorted colorful women’s nightgowns. I’m going to confess my sins and repent for this today during my nightly nighty kneely.
Lots of new information today. Lucky you. Anyway, this lovely answer on Quora and those 5 prayers, though misguided and quite probably a prank, do communicate something interesting for us to consider. I mean, besides sounding like five time-sensitive dwarves that Snow White wouldn’t let into the house. How much of an obligation is prayer, really, for Christians? How often do we need to pray? What is the minimum frequency? And what does it matter?
If you are someone who keeps up to date with the news, or even hears the news in passing, or at least you notice certain headlines because of those politically-charged friends who keep posting this stuff in their social media, you may have at some point felt that things seem to be spiralling out of control all over the world. At this point, the COVID virus is the least of the troubling things going on around us. I know I’ve been struck by that thought multiple times this year alone, and recently, God seemed to put another question right beside it for me to evaluate, and that was the question of prayer.
Very often I have heard it said of our previous generation (or of the generation before by the previous generation), that we are all abundantly blessed on account of the prayers of our parents and grandparents. That God has blessed our generations on account of the prayers of our faithful ancestors. It is a means of grace that God has promised in His Word to His people. (Psalm 103:17, 1 Cor 7:14, 2 Timothy 1:5) It is also plain to see that, through a prayerful man of God, blessings flow forth to their family, or to their place of work or study, or to anything they are involved in. Remember the blessings promised to Israel? (Deuteronomy 28:3-14, Psalm 1:3). I wonder if we, in the younger generations, have neglected this and taken God’s blessings for granted. Though we might acknowledge the importance of this kind of prayer, it is a sad truth that we are hard-pressed to find similar examples of prayerful people among our groups. We ourselves are people who forget to pray for ourselves, let alone for others. It then occurs to me that, with all of the strange things happening around us, all of the bad news, perhaps we Christians are to take some of the blame for not kneeling even nearly as often as we must?
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”John 15:16
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”1 John 5:14
The promises of God regarding prayer are really too numerous to recount here. It is quite a profound concept, if you really think about it. We are promised that there is no prayer of ours that He does not hear, and there is no prayer that He does not answer – according to His will and our ultimate good. And this is not a kind of desperate placation or unsure groveling in the dirt at His feet as He looks upon us in disdain. This is the means of grace granted to His people, by which we approach His mercy seat, His throne of grace, confident in His goodness and secure in His sovereignty, as children of the Most High God, for that is what He has given us the right to be called (1 Peter 1:3-5). Not simply to ask for more blessings, prosperity, healing and security, but to talk to Him and to listen to Him speak, to seek counsel and pour our hearts out to the One whom we love. Christ Himself prayed so often, so sincerely, and so “effectively”, that his disciples were compelled to ask Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). And the apostles remind us constantly in the epistles to pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17). It really is overwhelming, then, given the focus and power of our prayers and the Biblical promises and mandates, how little time we actually spend in prayer nowadays.
It varies from place to place too, as far as I understand. I say that we pray too little, looking around at my community here in Kerala, but I remember spending time with some people who had come down from America, who remarked that we pray a lot more than they do back home. Well, America is in a far worse state than Kerala is at the moment. Coincidence? I wonder. I like to imagine that we hold the key to bringing real change to the world around us. People will disagree with me on that, and it is not particularly a theological view, but I can still imagine, can’t I? I like to imagine the Christian community as the “Guardians of the Galaxy”. No connection to the movie, I just like the name. Christ calls us the light of the world and the salt of the Earth (Matt 5:13), and tells us that, in prayer, God will grant us what we ask, He will forgive our sins and heal our land (2 Chron 7:14). So I believe that we can pray for all of these things that we find troubling all around us. We can and we must. Whether it is for rain because the crops are failing, or for whatever it is that causes the economy to fail. For elections, for big hearings about abortion or homosexuality, or for the prevention of war and protection from diseases. And yes, for sense and sensibility, wisdom and discernment, protection against the infiltration of poisonous and dangerous ideologies among our communities and among our leadership.
I believe we must pray for all these and more, and I believe that God will indeed intervene. Is it not possible that we do not receive because we do not ask (Luke 1:19)? We are the only ones who have access to this great means of grace. We are the only ones that God has promised these blessings for, blessings that overflow into our communities around us. There is a nice song by Casting Crowns called, “What if His People Prayed”. One of my favourite lines is, “What if the family turned to Jesus, Stopped asking Oprah what to do”. All this talk about hugs, how many prayers do you think you need daily for maintenance? How many do you think the world needs daily for maintenance? How about for growth?! Do you think it is getting the minimum daily requirement? Are you?