How do we pray?
HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2018 - 12:00am

While waiting for super typhoon Ompong to hit Luzon last week, I was relieved to know that Metro Manila would be spared the worst of its onslaught. In fact, at 400 kilometers away from the danger zone, we would be relatively safe.  Like most Metro Manilans, I heaved a sigh of relief and whispered a prayer of thanks for the blessing.  It was an answered prayer, but why was I feeling guilty that we were being spared?

It was difficult to rejoice thinking of the millions in the Ilocos provinces and Batanes who would suffer the brunt of the strongest storm on the planet. Horrific memories of the endless rains and destructive flooding from Ondoy and the harrowing experience of Yolanda (Haiyan) keep me up at night, worrying about what the world will look like in the morning.  How would the children who live in flimsy houses survive the killer winds and deadly waters of Ompong?  What could I do, besides praying, to help them?

I honestly didn’t know how to pray in the face of Ompong.  If I asked that it spare Metro Manila, it would have to go somewhere else.  If I prayed that it would change its path completely and not hit us at all, it could find its way to Japan that has only recently been directly hit by a storm that just grazed the Philippines’ area of responsibility.  I was even tempted to pray that God send the worst of Ompong to China, to punish the Chinese for building military installations on our islands in the West Philippine Sea.

I ended up praying that, short of a miracle, the storm dissipates as it nears Northern Luzon, and weakens as it crosses the Cordilleras, then dissolve completely. God knows, it has wrought enough grief all across the Pacific.

As a child I mouthed memorized prayers before meals, at bedtime and upon waking.  In school, we recited our prayers out loud, often mindlessly, our intentions lost in the pleasure of the cadence and rhyme.

In my family, daily prayers included saying the Rosary out loud every night, on our knees, before the family altar.  If there were visitors, they were invited to join us, on their knees, like the rest of us. This ritual was inviolable.  In October, the month of the Holy Rosary, Mom would lead us all the way into the Litany of the Virgin Mary, which she had memorized, in Latin. To “Mater Amabilis, Mater Admirabilis,” etc., we responded, “Ora pro nobis.”  And when anyone close died and at their death anniversaries, Mom added the novena for the dead, in Spanish to which we intoned, “Ten misericordia por el alma de vuestro siervo….” Mom prayed for everyone so our nightly ritual was endless.

As I grew up, I learned to count on the Memorare, a shorter prayer, especially in times of emergency. “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Oh Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in you mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.” The Memorare has stayed with me all these years, giving me faith and comfort because, having thrown my concern her way, Mother Mary is now in charge. 

And at bedtime, I still automatically recite the night prayer of my childhood, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. And if I should live another day, I pray thee Lord to guide my way.” When I wake up, I implore my Guardian Angel, ”Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide, Amen.”

Do these juvenile prayers still work now that I am a senior citizen?  All I know is they give me a feeling of comfort and security.

As I write this on Friday morning, the skies are turning gray.  On Facebook, in fear and panic, netizens have put their supplications online, begging for the typhoon to dissipate, and expressing concern for the safety of our countrymen who are in the path of the storm.  There are a few cringe-worthy prayers thanking God for sparing Metro Manila but forgetting to mention the plight of our countrymen up North.  In general, however, the prayers are for deliverance of our country and people from harm.

I am guilty of using prayers that could have negative effects on other people. I pray that God would take certain people from life on earth, to give respite to us who must suffer their bad governance. But I have also been warned to be careful what I ask for, so I add, “But, Thy will be done.”

I am helpless before God’s will so I do not fight it. But He has never left me in the lurch. He sometimes makes me go through hoops, but that’s par for the course. So I sometimes say, “Bring it on, Lord. It can’t be more difficult than it already is.”

Meanwhile, I pray the Memorare.

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