One of my favorite teachers and authors warns against “a slot machine” approach to prayer. He wrote:
“We have a ‘slot machine’ approach to prayer. All we have to do is insert a prayer and out will come instant fulfillment, immediate gratification, regardless of whether what we are asking for is moral, ethical, or possible, regardless of whether or not it clashes with the needs and hopes of others.
“When what we ask for is denied us, we often abandon prayer as an exercise in futility. We forget that prayer at its highest involves praise and thanksgiving and that its primary concern is not getting but becoming. Our prayers are answered when they enable us to grow toward the person we are capable of being, and live as God would have us live.
“How many of us perform our small acts of charity and goodness for the wrong reasons? We expect a kind deed to be rewarded by a kind fate, to preserve us from trouble and misfortune.
“Is there then no reward for living a life of rectitude and uprightness? There is, indeed. We are rewarded not for our good deeds but by our good deeds. The reward for doing good is becoming a better human being.”
Prayer by invitation only
I cleared my schedule yesterday for a quick visit to Malacañang to join the National Day of Prayer that was called by President BS Aquino 3rd. but the event was by invitation only, like the Academy awards.
Invited to join the prayer on Malacañang grounds were leaders and members of the 16th Congress, top government officials, business leaders, and representatives of civil society and various faith groups. Selected media would be on hand to broadcast the event on live TV and radio. But expressly barred from attending were journalist-critics of the president. Ever-voluble spokesperson Abigail Valte explained that this was consistent with the President’s new year’s resolution to ignore his critics. Never mind the Palace’s exhortation for the public to join the prayer rally. No invitation, no entry. We just watch the event on television for free and say a prayer, if we wish, in keeping with the presidential proclamation.
As described by Palace communicators, the prayer rally would highlight the Filipino people’s strong faith in God amidst the tragic natural and man-made calamities in 2013, and their resilience and seemingly miraculous deliverance from them. High on the disaster list were the bloody standoff in Zamboanga City between Moro National Liberation Front forces and government troops; the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, and Super Typhoon Yolanda that killed more than 6,000 people in Leyte and Samar.
Also notably absent among the guests were members of the Opposition. Which is significant because the rally was billed as a rally for national unity.
A better version of ourselves
This was written before the event took place yesterday, so I cannot report or comment on what the President and guests prayed or said to convey the idea of being One Nation in Prayer.
As Malacañang was preparing to unite the nation in prayer, another shattering event was unfolding in the Philippine Senate that would incontrovertibly show the divisions and disunity within our country.
Before the prayer rally could unfold with appropriate solemnity, the event was preempted on live TV by the privilege speech of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. at the Senate Session Hall. In his speech, he detonated a few bombs that are certain to grab the evening news and the next day’s newspaper headlines – bumping off the prayer rally.
Senator Revilla’s speech underscored through explicit examples of scandals and irregularities the glaring lie behind President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) program. He kept asking in a recurring refrain “Ito ba ang Daang Matuwid?” (Is this the Straight Path?)
In his biggest shocker of the afternoon, Revilla disclosed how President Aquino himself asked him, during a meeting at Aquino’s Bahay Pangarap residence in Malacañang, for the personal favor of voting to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona in the latter’s impeachment trial in the Senate. He also revealed that Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas drove him to Malacañang and that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. joined the meeting.
The spectacle of the Chief of State meddling in an impeachment trial was troubling.
Revilla’s revelations were not the best prelude for the National Day of Prayer. One wonders now whether the rally will push through at all, or whether President Aquino and the other featured speakers will still have the resolve to deliver their prepared speeches, whose best sentiments and supplications for the assistance of Divine Providence for our country and our people, may have been irreparably undercut by Revilla’s speech.
I planned to include here my own prepared prayer for our country, “A Better Version of Ourselves”, but that should wait for another day.
This day could turn into a wake for Daang Matuwid.