Gary V on how the pandemic changed his prayer life

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Gary V on how the pandemic changed his prayer life
Gary Valenciano feels honored to join Pray.com as its Philippine ambassador: ‘I want to encourage everyone to pray. I have survived so many health challenges. I am here with you today only by the grace of God.’ The veteran singer’s photos for the app were taken by the late Raymund Isaac, who was Gary’s photographer for 30 years.
STAR / File

Gary Valenciano recently opened up on how the pandemic has challenged and changed his prayer life.

“It literally brought me to tears. It made me realize that perhaps there was a lot of pride, thinking kayang-kayang naman eh, pinagdaanan ko na ‘to, bypass, cancer, kaya ko na yan. But when the pandemic happened, it’s everybody. Now your family’s not sure to be protected, your company, work and all of these things,” the OPM icon, who’s known as a devout Christian, told The STAR in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

The health crisis hit home as Gary’s wife, Angeli Pangilinan, and their two kids — Gabriel and Kiana — contracted the virus. Prayer was a source of comfort.

“Nagka-COVID pa yung misis ko, yung mga anak ko, si Gabriel and Kiana, in different times, and you can’t help human nature to go, oh no. But with prayer, you cannot help but be reminded of what God has already done in your life in the past. Maaaring sabihin ng iba, that was before. But see, it is written that God is the same today, yesterday and forever. So, in the same manner, He would work on (your life) again today and tomorrow, He would do the same thing.”

Gary has always been vocal about his faith and it has found expression through inspirational songs, such as the multi-platinum hits Shout For Joy and Take Me Out of the Dark, as well as iconic covers of Lead Me Lord and I Will Be Here. Last year, he released another song of praise titled Make Us Whole Again.

The recording artist acknowledged that the COVID-19 situation weighed down on him, but somehow it moved him to intensify spiritual efforts.

“The effect was, wow, pagod na rin ako. I’m so tired of trying to keep my head above the storm and then I love encouraging people but even I got tired of that. And then here comes the pandemic, then it was becoming OK, and then here comes another variant. What other variants are going to happen?

“But early on, I was able to realize that ‘Wait, Gary, it was written also that the Lord said in this world, you will have troubles, you will have tribulations, but take heart, because I have overcome the world.’ So, if I’m able to latch on to that, I’ll be able to overcome it, too, although mahirap lang if the human factor comes in.

“The human reactions are based on valid reasons. There’s a pandemic we’re all facing. It really shook me to realize that I really need to stay in contact with God…. spend time with Him (because) you’ll never know how He’s going to speak to you, and how He’s going to speak through you.”

Pray.com ambassador

Gary V shared these reflections in a one-on-one with The STAR after he was introduced as the Philippine ambassador of Pray.com, the “world’s No. 1 app for daily prayer and Bible-based audio content.” Founded by Steve Gatena five years ago, the app has over 10 million subscribers who have access to daily prayers, audio Bible stories, Christian meditations, prayer plans, podcasts of international pastors and speakers, and inspirational music.

It was easy for Gary to come on board, especially as he had a long-time project similar to Pray.com content and intent to encourage more people to pray. “I told them, do you know these Bible stories are things I’ve been doing since 2008? Two-minute stories because I was thinking before, the attention span of the young is very short. I got the likes of Jericho Rosales, Leo Martinez, RJ dela Fuente, (my wife) Angeli and Anthony Pangilinan (to read the stories),” he said.

“When I tried to test it on some young people like Robi Domingo five or six years ago, he put down his headset, ‘Sir Gary, I’ve never heard it shared like this.’ It’s called cinematic audio wherein it’s fully scored and my songs such as Take Me Out of the Dark, you can hear them in the background.”

In Pray.com, Gary is the voice behind biblical stories and meditation prayers. “The app has a lot of tools that can really enhance the prayer life. I think it’s perfect timing for people who are stuck at home, who cannot really go out and mingle with people.”

When asked about his daily prayer routine, Gary shared: “I like to wake up at 4 a.m. I just come down, I open the TV and play some praise music. While I’m playing praise music, ayun na pumapasok na ang mga prayers. It happens many times, the Lord gives me a name in my head or an image of a person, it can be a fellow colleague in the industry...it can be somebody na classmate in school or college. And I’ll just send a message and say, hey, man, how’s family and all that. How nice to receive (after), parang uy, thanks for checking on me... Those are my little prayers, but part of the routine.

“I really try to spend 10 minutes of praying and reading the Word. I just found out, this is based on studies, that if you read God’s Word four times a week, not even every day, percentages of domestic violence (would) drop, percentages of people who are into drugs or whatever, it drops.

“I’d like to follow a routine that can be within that trend, so that I can be a better boss, better husband and better father,” said Gary, who has also learned to incorporate praying into his daily walks.

When was the last time he prayed the hardest? The singer disclosed it was just recently when more family members got infected with COVID-19. He added, “Yung isa naman na cousin ko, he succumbed to COVID and he was a very good, effective pastor, a husband to one wife, father of three children. I had a classmate who also passed away.

“And then Raymund Isaac, you know,” he said, still mourning the loss of his longtime friend and photographer of 30 years. “Those are the times I really prayed hard.”

Gary has also been praying harder for the country, “for its leadership, how we deal with the pandemic and the virus as a whole,” urging others to pray for the country’s leaders even if you are “angry at them.”

Prayer as a father

On a more personal level, prayer has been his refuge. Gary, who’s been dubbed as the industry’s Mr. Pure Energy, said: “Please, don’t let my jolly, upbeat thing fool you.

“I do hit those moments (of stress) when I wake up and think, okay, when’s my next show? ASAP (on Sundays) and that’s it. After that, what? Wala. Buti pa nga sila Martin (Nievera), Bamboo and Arnel Pineda, they’re all in the States and they have shows there. But I can’t be away for too long. I have a commitment to ASAP, ABS-CBN. Yes, I do wake up sometimes with anxiety in my head and it’s tough. So, I just come before God in prayer...

“I do have stressful moments, especially when my kids are not doing okay. When Kiana goes through her anxiety attack or when Paolo reveals his struggle through the pandemic. I’m like sana, I can just give them everything, but it’s really tough at this time. I don’t really have as much as I’d like to give, we’ve all been affected by the pandemic. We live with what we have. And maybe that’s really all we need. So, I have to remember that.”

Gary recalled how one time, amid his son’s health condition, he learned to pray “in words that I myself do not understand…. It’s called the language of the Spirit.

“Before, I looked down on that because that’s a little too... But then it happened,” he shared.

“It was in a church and I was praying for my son Gabriel. You know, he’s been diagnosed with bipolar. He’s openly talking about it. But as a father, parang Lord, it’s just… I was almost in tears and it just came out. And, you know, it made me feel parang Ikaw lang po nakakaintindi sa mga sinasabi ko and thank You so much that You allow me to communicate with You in this way.”

Asked for any advice to fellow parents on how to deal with children undergoing mental health challenges, Gary said: “Parents must always be around their children who are going through mental health challenges. We as parents must make an effort to check how their child is doing.They just have to listen to what the child has to say. Just to be a listening ear is good enough. The parents may not have the answers to everything and they should be bold enough to admit that they don’t have the answer and that they should pray together to discover the answer with the help of God.

“Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness as it is a sign of being real, true and honest.  Listening may not solve the problem at hand but it’s like applying a soothing balm to a burning wound. Listening and prayer spell the difference between life and death. Go through the problem with them and not from a distance.”

Meanwhile, Gary’s sharing “because I want people to know I am not exempted from all these things.” He’s glad there are tools like Pray.com that you can use “if you’re lost, in disbelief, or tried praying before — well, try again.”

“I’ve seen and I know the power of prayer,” he said, adding that, “If you’re worried about prayer, God’s not worried about you. He just wants you to constantly stay in contact with Him. Kahit masama ang loob ninyo, you can come to Him like that. Just be yourself, you can’t hide it. He’ll know exactly what you’re going through anyway. Just come to him as you are and let God take care of everything else along the way.”

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