“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith.” (2 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 5)

The answer to the question, “Do you pray enough?”, is between your conscience and God. A major theme, I think, of Christ Jesus’ prayer in John’s gospel, chapters 15 to 17, is that in the end everything and everyone will be one with God and his love. If that is so, then prayer – time spent with God, time consciously acknowledging his presence whether felt or not, time that may or may not use words – prayer is our home. Home with God is where we are going – at least for those who follow Christ. Prayer is important.

Now, at this point I must say that I am not a particularly good pray-er. It is God who can be relied upon – not me. But as it is the beginning of Lent (this post published on Ash Wednesday) and traditionally for Christians a time of self-examination, then you might ask yourself this question: “Do I pray enough?”

Someone, a few years ago now, told me that they were too busy to pray. So I asked them, “Do you have time to eat?” And, naturally they said “Yes”. “Do you have time to go shopping?” (for food). Again, they said “Yes”. Then I suggested that prayer was an essential part of our lives as much as food. To be sure we have different tastes, different meal times. Some people only eat meals three times a day; others graze and snack several times a day. When we are ill we might go without food for days (though we still need to drink water, at least) and sometimes we are so caught up in events that we miss a meal and catch up later. But if we go for days without food at all we become weak, more prone to becoming ill or worse.

By analogy the same can be said of prayer: some of us use set prayers at particular times of day; some have informal prayers; others use ‘arrow prayers’ and pray little but often; others have prayers before a meal and pray every time they set off on a journey no matter how long or short. If we are ill we may not have the strength to pray (or even be unconscious) or we may be so caught up in some emergency that prayer is a likely as grabbing a bite to eat. But to go without prayer, I would suggest, is as serious as going without food: we can live without it but not for ever.

To my friend I suggested that one should pray at least as often as one eats and go to church (or equivalent) at least as often as one goes shopping. However, this is not a rule intended to set us up to fail. That is not the point. Apart from some very disciplined souls I doubt many of us would succeed in this for more than some of the time. The point is rather to show how important prayer is. It is essential – not because we need to pray in any particular way, but because we need God.

I haven’t forgotten that Christian living also includes time spent with other people, good works, study and time out for re-creation. It may be that it is one of those which you decide to re-examine. For now, though, howsoever you decide to observe it, may you have a fruitful Lent.