Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Twenty seconds seems like a short time, yet it is sufficient to kill viruses and microbes from your hands with thorough handwashing. Thus, when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began, we were inundated with public service announcements that asked us to wash our hands to stop the spread. Again, it seems like a small step to achieve a beneficial result, but it is effective.
Twenty seconds is also the time required to receive health benefits from a hug. For example, a study conducted in 2003 found that twenty seconds spent in a warm embrace increased oxytocin levels and decreased cortisol levels. 1, 2 Oxytocin is also known as the “love drug,” “love hormone,” and “cuddle hormone.” 3 Believe it or not, the primary function of oxytocin is to facilitate childbirth by causing uterine contractions. However, within adults, especially for a couple, it increases feelings of attachment.
As a cautionary note, we might cite this to instruct our youth to limit their physical contact with their dates before marriage since the creation of oxytocin can blur the lines between true, agape love and eros love. As oxytocin is considered a “feel-good hormone,” parents should guide their offspring to create it instead through singing with a group and exercise.4 Otherwise, like with any drug, one might seek it out just for the pleasant feelings it brings without considering the complications.
But what of our spiritual lives? What can twenty seconds do to help that? I did an experiment using the Lord’s model prayer to find out. First, using the NaturalReader Dotcom website, I copied and pasted the text from Matthew 6.9-13 from different Bible translations. Next, I selected a variety of A.I. voices offered by the website, both American and British. Then, I used a stopwatch to see how long it took for the computer-generated voice to read the text. You might be surprised to learn that the model prayer only took 21 to 28 seconds to read. However, when I removed the final sentence that some academics say is missing from the various manuscripts consulted to create modern English translations, the reading time was between 18 and 20 seconds.
Paul tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Unfortunately, our prayer lives may suffer because we think we must dedicate a lot of time to pray and thus cannot find time for it within our busy schedules. Yet Jesus shows us that we can say a prayer encompassing most of our needs with about twenty seconds! What often “pads out” our prayers are the needed expressions of thanksgiving and the petitions we lift on behalf of others. But when confronted by temptation or needing to check our temper, twenty seconds of prayer might make the crucial difference.
Consider this a friendly public service announcement for Christians. It only takes twenty seconds to clean your heart and deepen your love for God.
1 Alloway, Tracy. “What 20 Seconds of Hugging Can Do for You.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 19 Jan. 2022,www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/keep-it-in-mind/202201/what-20-seconds-hugging-can-do-you.
2 Grewen, Karen M, et al. “Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity.” Behavioral medicine (Washington, D.C.) vol. 29,3 (2003): 123-30. doi:10.1080/08964280309596065
3 Watson, Stephanie. “Oxytocin: The Love Hormone.” Harvard Health, The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 20 July 2021,www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/oxytocin-the-love-hormone.