Power of Prayers
This was my Panorama column last Sunday, September 18. I’d like to dedicate this to Jenny Rivera, Diana Jill, and the rest of their family and to all OFW families here and around the world.
Love, when expressed in and through prayers, leads to hope. I have seen this many times in my life. I have also seen it in the lives of so many Filipino migrant workers and their families. There is divine alchemy in prayers. Sometimes just the bowing of one’s head, the joining of hands clasped in unity for noble intentions, represent opportunities for conversations with God that are frank, honest, and raw with emotion.
Jenny Rivera, brave sister of Diana Jill, one of four Filipino domestic workers employed by the niece of Col. Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, seeks refuge in prayers. She bears the burden of bringing to the attention of government the fears, longings, and urgent pleas of help from her sister. Nanay Edith, mother of Junard Langamin, an overseas Filipino worker detained in Saudi Arabia in a cell reserved for death row convicts, also finds refuge in the power of prayers. These two women, brought together by fate to the doors of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, have shown remarkable courage, selflessness, and faith amid crisis situations not of their making.
When my father died while airborne on a plane that was taking him from Tokyo to Bahrain, my family and I sought comfort in prayers. Sometimes I would talk to the Lord and then through Him, begin a quiet conversation of my own with my father. Always, these brief encounters in quiet, near-empty Adoration Chapels tucked neatly in favorite churches, strip me of the arrogance of being, the many pretensions that come attached to life. God and my father know more of me than even I can comprehend.
When praying, think of raindrops falling gently like diamonds on a canopy of overlapping green leaves; or the flapping of butterfly wings as it searches for the freshest, dew-blessed flowers, low to the ground but with petals pleasing to the sky. Prayers are poems of the soul. They transform the aged to the young, the troubled to the peaceful, and the hopeless to one with abundant faith. When nothing else works, one collapses into prayer. When everything works, one must learn to lift eyes and soul to the highest point of heaven in prayerful thanks.
There is safety in prayer. One can unburden the soul, shout, scream, weep, or even simply stare, with heart stretched out in one’s hand, exposed and pulsating with the anguish of the needy. God answers, somehow. The reply may not always be as dramatic as regime change in a war-scarred country or the miraculous healing of a terminally-ill cancer patient. Not all requests are granted because sometimes acceptance of one’s fate is already such a gift in itself.
How does one explain in concrete, specific terms an overwhelming, unwavering belief in the divine? You don’t. It’s like breathing. In, out till time runs out. So is it with prayer – you hear the melody when God answers, in the rhythm of unexpected events; in the vibrancy of life itself. You feel safe when you pray, whatever God’s answer is. Just the desire to touch His face is a wondrous thing. To feel that desire, especially amid all kinds of strife, is extraordinarily beautiful.
Whether offered on bended knees or while standing in a crowded bus, the love that pours out once a person starts praying is so magnificently pure that it escapes description. Listen to a child saying his or her evening prayers. Hear the pitch, feel the innocence. We must learn how to be child-like when we pray. Humble in seeking what only the Divine Creator can bestow, a person who prays must be truest to himself.
The leprosy of lies and pretensions cannot and will not make our prayers buoyant. It is when praying that one is able to define and derive true wealth. True wealth is not the gold that rises now when the dollar is weak. True wealth is in the depth of sincerity and commitment to serving a higher power.
The power of prayer is in the love it grows. I am comforted by the freedom that comes with being able to pray when most needed, and to say thanks to God when so warranted. We are humans but we are not powerful. Every little superficial, accidental cut that leads to red blood emerging from broken skin is a reminder that our stay on earth is limited. We are all guest workers of the Lord. The Diaspora is not just from country to country. It is also from dust to dust, from earth to the divine, from skin to soul, and from mortality to life beyond earthly boundaries.
It is when the least saintly among us find the will to pray, that heavens open its arms the widest. Grace is the rising of those who fell. Faith is the how the blind can see. Prayers are rosary beads of the heart. This I believe.