Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Of Praying and Prayer

Praying is one ritual the typical Filipino resorts to quite often but also rather paradoxically assumes and takes for granted, having been born in an unchanged environment where more than 80% of the population are Christian, specifically Roman Catholic, and where rituals and ritualism are most prevalent.

The idea of praying collectively is very much ingrained in religious culture. Rituals provide the forum to focus our collective energies in prayer. Having studied parapsychology on my own, I rather lean toward this spiritual exercise which others in both academia and elsewhere swear is quite effective in getting things and actions done. Even Charismatic movements within the Church resort to these means for healing and getting requests fulfilled.

But what is prayer, or how does one pray? In its most universal application, praying is the raising of our hearts and minds to God, or the Supreme Being. In school, we had a formula prayer, called the Morning Offering, which we recited daily at either the start of school or when one woke up. Essentially, it offers to God all our good thoughts and deeds of the day as prayer. Our day then became one big prayer. Those who pray in meditation simply go into some kind of trance and connect with the universe by crossing the boundary of self.

How should our praying be? Setting aside time in solitude and reading passages from the Bible or other religious books?

Or should we be more intense and specific. Pray for exactly what we want to happen and focus our collective will toward its fulfillment with the assistance of Divine Providence? But this is what St Ignatius said about praying:

That we must pray as though the matter we desire depended entirely on God and then work on it as though it depended entirely on ourselves.

Thus, praying can be a very taxing exercise. Maybe more taxing than we ordinary ascribe to it.


I have no doubt that most of us here realize the “need” and “importance” of prayer, because most of us here believe in the existence of a higher being somewhere out there, who watches over all our actions and more importantly, makes us accountable for each of them. As a consequence then, prayer becomes our communication with that being not just to explain ourselves, but also to seek for assistance on how this life might be lived in a manner acceptable to him. Scriptures and other holy books confirm and validate this.

Prayer needs to be explained and given its rightful place in our lives and taken away from its present commonplace parlance.

Though not wishing to be flippant, let me portray how it is presently viewed in common parlance by using the Hail Mary pass to illustrate. Most are probably aware of the Hail Mary pass used in professional football. This is how it got its name. It is a desperation pass from a great distance to the end zone amidst great coverage during the waning seconds of a game with only one intention. A receiver catches it and wins the game for the team. If not, the game is ended and lost.

Unfortunately and sadly, this typifies how prayer is viewed commonly.

One’s last minute option for deliverance or salvation. Desperate and against overwhelming impending odds.

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