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Overdoing it? Not at all, prayer is key part of our national life

President William Ruto, second right, leads prayers held at State House, Nairobi. [PSCU]

After the prayers held at State House last Sunday, several people have sought my opinion on the same.

The concerns have revolved around two or three issues – whether I attended the prayers, why Christian prayers should be held at the State House of a secular nation, and whether such prayers are even necessary. My response has been based on the Constitution, Biblical principles, and practical reality. Let us take them in that order.

Our Constitution clearly addresses the fact of our spiritual stand as a nation. The Preamble of the Constitution boldly states that “We, the people of Kenya -  ACKNOWLEDGING the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation…”

After this opening statement, the rest of the provisions are outlined. The implication is that we have expressly stated at the preamble of our supreme governance document that we acknowledge the supremacy of God in all of our affairs. This is significant.

I am no lawyer but, my understanding is that the preamble, especially in a contract or covenant, is the most important part. The preamble sets out the fundamental beliefs, assumptions, and understandings, upon which any contract or covenant is entered into. You go wrong on the preamble and the rest of the contract is defective; you dismiss it and the whole covenant is rendered invalid.

We can therefore firmly assert that Kenya is NOT a secular nation. In fact, anyone who so declares, would be in violation of the Constitution. The best we can say is that Kenya is a multi-religious nation. As per the last census, Kenya was found to be 86 per cent Christian, 11 per cent Muslim, and other groups such as Hindus, Sikhs, Baha'is, and various traditional religious beliefs comprised about two per cent of the population. Those who declared themselves to have no religious beliefs were insignificant.

Were the prayers necessary? Well, the matter about the place and necessity of prayers is one that has tasked the minds of theologians and philosophers alike. The efficacy of prayers, especially on such general matters as national well-being can be debated. However, history has shown that when nations have turned to God in prayer – especially in times of difficulty – circumstances have changed.

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Uhuru Kenyatta called for prayers for God to spare us the potentially devastating impact of the virus. Some dismissed him for spiritualising a medical disaster. I however opined in this space that because of that call by the President, and because Africa was ill-equipped to tackle the virus, the God of Africa would have mercy on us and spare us the catastrophe – and He did. To date, no plausible scientific explanation has been proffered as to why Africa was spared devastation from the pandemic.

William Ruto is anointed during a church service ahead of the 2022 General Elections. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

It is noteworthy that the founding fathers of our nation, so valued prayers that they embedded it in our national anthem. The whole anthem is a comprehensive prayer for all that any nation would seek. The implication is that whether or not there are formal prayers at our national events, the singing of the national anthem serves as a prayer at the beginning and closing of all public events – especially presidential functions. And no wonder God has consistently spared us devastation, sometimes even when we seem determined to destroy ourselves. The Bible expressly declares that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

Why Christian prayers? It is my understanding that last Sunday prayers had two main and specific objectives – to give thanks to God for the election of Dr William Ruto as President, and to pray for the President as he prepared to occupy his office and residence at State House. This is a practice by many Christians who seek such prayers as they move into new assignments or premises – offices or residences – as an expression of their desire for the blessings of God as they embark on the new task ahead.

For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom. It is only practical that such prayers would be conducted by the clergy from the faith to which the person belongs. Otherwise, it would be expected that official national events would be more encompassing of our diverse faiths.

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