I grew up in a typical yet not overly rigid Catholic environment. I went to an all-girls school (down in Pasig then in Quezon City for High school), made the jump and became an Iskolar ng Bayan in college (although I would’ve much preferred to stay with the Catholic school a few blocks down at DLSU.. LOL), then because the Jesuits saw something in me that UP did not, went to law school with the priests again.
Now that I am almost 40 years old, a solid but not practicing Catholic (read: I don’t go to Church every Sunday but I consider myself to have a very personal relationship with my God), I actually appreciate the religious instruction I got from the nuns of St. Paul. From them I learned the beatitudes, the virtues, the prophets, the books of the old and the new testament, the Holy Trinity, and a smattering of other religions to help me appreciate the Roman Catholic way better I suppose (and which surprises the Muslims and others from religions other than Catholicism because they usually think we Catholics only know about ours..).. but more importantly, they taught me the power and importance of prayer.
So even at a very tender age, I took God’s word literally that when two or three are gathered in His name, He will hear me. When I was in Catholic school, it was so easy to walk up to a friend and very nonchallantly ask her to pray for me. No questions asked, and just as they would ask me, we would reassuringly say yes, we will. (and Yes, I did.) In college it was a little more difficult because the religious beliefs of people were more diverse and you always ran the risk of being considered a religious fanatic if you just opened up to a friend and asked for prayers. At that point in my life, I learned to preface my request with “I hope you don’t find it unusual but I would appreciate it if you would help me pray..”
Maybe you would find it weird that I went through all the preamble when I wasn’t even sure this person would pray for me, but I consider my life a testament to the fact that prayer is always answered. And yes, when others pray for you, it does not guarantee a yes, but it does help. The biggest difficulty in the whole communicating with our God bit is that not all of us are discerning of the answer we get. I, too, had to learn the hard way that God DOES answer my prayers, but sometimes, I don’t hear or see His response because I want to hear or see something else. When I finally took the words “THY WILL BE DONE” literally, then the answers became easier for me to see.
One favorite illustration of mine is when Alan came into my life. When he resurfaced from out of nowhere, I was dating and was actively looking for someone to seriously consider as THE ONE I would spend the rest of my life with. I was dating someone else who I was actually a little crazy for (I called him my little Edu Manzano) but who was not exactly Mr. Right in several respects that made me wince a bit at the thought of attaching his last name to mine. I had just left a 7-year relationship that went nowhere. And while the ex refused to accept I had moved on, I fought very strongly against being held back. I wanted to move on.
My Mom had always been prodding me to pray that God bring me a good husband. (I must say that when one is praying for a good career, answer to financial problems, assistance in saving our family home from foreclosure, this was not on the priority list.) She was getting worried because I was already 33 years old and in the eyes of the elders, this was my ticket to spinsterhood. I never took her admonition seriously because I was immersed with a ton of other problems as the eldest sibling. I figured that was something I didn’t need God’s help with.
Then Alan came. The way our love story unfolded was just too good to be true. So yes, I decided to follow my Mom’s advice. I prayed. I didn’t pray for Alan — I prayed that God give me someone I could spend the rest of my life with. I asked that He open my eyes and let me see without a doubt, and when I saw His choice, that I accept it. I couldn’t bear to ask for Alan by name because I was afraid of what the answer would be. So I prayed.. and then I listened.
My Little Edu Manzano started to shed his mask and show his true self. It was all but fun for him. His feelings for me, as it turned out, was limited to a deep fondness and that was that. He was fun to be with but I can have fun with my friends or my brothers and sister. Alan, however, threw caution to the wind, made clear his intentions, flew to Manila on a whim, and despite his reservations about taking the plunge after we initially met, told me he could not live without me and will be working to bring me to the US so we could get married. A few weeks later, he was in Manila with his family again asking for my hand in marraige.
I prayed and I listened. And when God answered, I stopped myself from asking for more signs because they came one after the other.. I didn’t want God getting fed up with my disbelief. I asked.. He answered. End of story.
That may seem like an overly-simplistic illustration of my prayer life to some. See, I believe that each of us is a living miracle, and we have so many little miracles that happen in our lives — we just fail to recognize it as God’s work. We credit ourselves, our family, our friends, or fate — we become blind to God’s hand in the way things work themselves out in our lives.
I hold Angel in my arms and I see a living, breathing, wonderful human being that I am desperately trying to mold to be a good person. I look at him with awe and I know this was a gift from God. In the constant struggle of life, I find peace when I lay my head down at night and I sleep soundly. I know it’s because God cradles my head and helps me to find my personal quiet place amidst all the noise.
I have never been a perfect human being, and I have my sins. Yet I know He hears and He will never stop listening to me.. be it to my incessant begging, or as I usually start my day as I walk to the bus stop, to my prayers of thanks and praise for helping me begin another day with Him by my side.
So as one of my favorite hymns says: From all the evil that surrounds me, defend me. And when the call of death arrives, bid me come to thee so I may praise thee with thy saints forever.