Why faith and prayers?
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - January 18, 2016 - 9:00am

The expressions of faith in the processions of the Black Nazarene in Manila last week and the attendance in the masses and the other events in the feast of the Sto. Niño in Cebu are very impressive in terms of numbers and the fervor of the devotees. That the numbers are increasing due to population growth is expected, but there could also be a Catholic religious and cultural revival in the Philippines. While Catholic Church attendance in many parts of Europe and in the USA are waning, it is in the upswing in Latin America, in the Philippines and surprisingly in South Korea. Is this a sign of the power of faith and prayers?

In the context of religion, faith is confidence or trust in God, the observance of an obligation from loyalty or fidelity to a promise, a belief not based on proof. The barefoot walk and the struggle to touch the Black Nazarene image of hundreds of thousands devotees fall squarely in this definition. And so does the procession, the daily masses, the consecutive novenas and the dances to the Sto. Niño. These are more of blind faith, and not enough of the good works and works of mercy that are also espoused by the Catholic Church to be a good Christian.

Again in the religious context, a prayer is a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship, an invocation, intercession or devotion. The connection between faith and prayer is presumed, so that all those who make the "panata" or promise, pray and expect that their prayers will be answered and that God will deliver, as they have kept their end of the bargain.

Anecdotal evidence from the people who make the annual pilgrimage is plenty. They will swear that the health and well being of their family or family members have been due to their annual devotion to the Black Nazarene or the Sto. Niño. It is difficult to argue with a person who attests that his terminal cancer was cured due to his annual procession in Cebu. It is impossible to argue with one who believes that the conversion of an errant husband and the peace in the family is due to his barefoot walk and touching of the Black Nazarene.

Years ago as a Philosophy student in UP, in the subject the philosophy of religion, I recall in a class discussion, that we eventually settled the issue of "answered prayers" as something that can only be argued from personal experience. While it has not been scientifically collated, there are plenty of anecdotal testimonies that their prayers have been answered. If we go be the rough statistics read by the Redemptorist Churches in the weekly Mother of Perpetual Help masses or novenas, it seems between 35 to 40 percent of the prayers are answered. Given a 5 percent margin for those who do not reply or convey their thanks to the Redemptorist Churches, the percentages are good.

Agnostics and atheists may argue that these percentage probabilities are common and usual in many events, like the toss of a coin; but they are missing the causal connection. Answered prayers have the antecedent faith, sacrifice and prayer request made before the expected outcome of the event. So the results are ascribable to the faith and prayers.

I have a theory though, on why faith and prayers are answered, and it has to do with God (or Gods) as Supreme Being with super intelligence and powers. If mankind is now able to make computers, cellphones and machines that can adopt, repair and evolve itself; and we are now able to put sensors and detect or locate persons and activities all over the world, our God has had these capabilities since the time of creation of the world and mankind. If so, then man, as God's creation are actually hardwired and programmed so that it can adopt, repair, and evolve itself. It makes intellectual and economic sense if one's creations are able to repair, correct, and upgrade itself so that only the major problems will have to be dealt with external intervention. Good management would only require God to deal with major disasters like war, revolutions, massive natural calamities, and maybe Philippine elections. The answers and solutions of day to day prayers are already within us and only needs to be activated. And the trigger mechanism to make these happen is faith, prayers, doing good works, and living the life of a good person.

Serenity, peace of mind, and a life of fulfillment with the right amount of happiness come with the right mixture of faith, prayers, and good works. I just hope all the devotees of the Black Nazarene and the Sto. Niño add an equal dose of good Christian living and good works to their devotion, as what the Catholic Church have been urging its faithful since time immemorial, to increase the probability of their prayers and faith getting the right answers.


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