The Underrated Power of Prayer

How many times do we say it and really, really mean it?

We utter this sentence like “give-away samples” handed out by mall merchandisers on a busy Sunday afternoon. We text it. We email it. During birthdays. Anniversaries. Wakes.

“I will pray for you…” we often say.

But very few really do.

Or maybe it’s just me. Shame on me accusing you of what I am most guilty of. But last Tuesday was an eye-opener for me — like a cold shower, a real wake-up call.

Our one-year old son Franco began to have a fever accompanied by cough and cold on Sunday afternoon. By Monday, he started to lose his appetite. By Tuesday, the fever didn’t cease and he began to grow steadily weaker. On our way to the doctor, Jeng began texting our brothers and sisters in Ligaya ng Panginoon, our Catholic Community. I also texted my friends from other prayer groups asking for their prayers. Pretty soon, messages from well-wishers promising us of their prayers flooded our inbox. And we took comfort in these assurances from our friends.

Jeng and I were a little pessimistic. We looked at Franco’s condition and we were almost sure the doctor would insist that we admit him in the hospital. And yet, looking back today, I remember that there was a glimmer of hope behind the gloom which accompanied us to the clinic that day. Somehow, we felt a certain assurance deep in our hearts that things will turn out fine.

True enough, the doctor prescribed a list of medicines for Franco but allowed us to bring him home. No emergency rooms. No tests. No admission. But that was just the first miracle.

The next 24 hours were an amazing display of God’s action. As soon as Franco took the meds, he was able to sleep and rest at home. His incessant coughing, for some reason didn’t bother him. He woke up a few hours later with a smile and was in a jolly mood to play with Jeng. He even ventured to go down from the bed and play with his sisters. A few more hours passed and Franco started to dance again with his favorite “Hi-5” video. We shook our heads in utter amazement at the unexpected surge of energy in Franco. The next day, his appetite returned. And Franco, at his age, is already legendary when it comes to gobbling food. The fever did not return. The smiles were back. Except for some mild coughing, Franco was back to his normal self.

So how do you explain Franco’s healing in less than twenty-fours?

Some will call it “the wonders of modern medicine”. Others will refer to it as the “healing love of family”. For me, I label it simply as the “underrated power of prayer”.

Prayer is power.

When sincere hearts turn to the Lord, holy hands lifted  in worship and petitions uttered in faith, God moves. And when God moves, the earth trembles. Governments are toppled. Cancer cells defeated. Broken relationships miraculously restored.

Today, I thank those who prayed for Franco not only for his healing but also for the lesson learned. My perspective of how important prayer really is has been radically changed. Not that I don’t believe in prayer before. I do. But I believe now in its power more than ever.

So the next time I utter the phrase, “I will pray for you”, I will remember that people really expect me to do so. And so I will bend my knees and raise my voice to heaven. It will not just be a mechanical exercise of Christian duty but a real crusade for the fulfillment of God’s good and perfect will for His beloved.

May you do the same.

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The Battle is the Lord’s: The Lie of Self-Sufficiency

The old man peers through the window overlooking the vast valley. That’s where it took place decades ago. When things were simpler. When things were clearer. No throne to occupy. No kingdom to rule. No economy to maintain. The shepherd boy turned king breathes a deep sigh. After all these years, he can still smell the stench of war…

*———————————————–*

He strolled on that field, years ago, with nothing much but his slingshot and his faith. They tried to persuade him to turn back. Instead, he dismissed and turned them away. He was offered an armor but he shook his head and turned it down. Even the offer of a prize was moot. With or without the promise of a reward, the boy knew what he needed to do and was determined to do it. Only his zeal surpassed his fear as he advanced by his lonesome on that battlefield.

Behind him was a pathetic sight — his countrymen cowering in fear. Before him was a throng of arrogance —- a Palestinian army sensing imminent victory. But within him was a fire — an unquestionable faith on a God who has seen him through countless times in the past.

A giant loomed before him — mocking. Bulging muscles burst forth from the giant’s armor. His mouth foamed with every scornful remark. The giant’s eyes squinted with disdain as the young shepherd boy advanced with every step. The giant gripped his weapon and readied himself for his conquest. He lets out a roar and attacked. Everyone watched with bated breath as the drama unfolded to its resounding climax. A slingshot for a sword. Faith in God versus faith in one’s self. God-sufficiency against self-sufficiency. The giant beats his chest to announce his power. The boy points to heaven to declare God’s power.

“David said, ‘The battle is the Lords’!”

The boy whips his sling and the little rock flew. Just like before, on the hills of Israel, battling against the bears and wolves which attempted to devour his flock, the boy, once again, prayed for God’s intervention. And as always, as if an unseen hand carried the stone on air and directed it to the enemy’s forehead. Slam! The little rock rocked the giant’s world. For the giant, everything after that went blank. Darkness followed. And the only sound of breathing he could hear, for sure, wasn’t his own but that of Hades.

Goliath falters on the battlefield. But the boy wasn’t through with him yet. The boy knew that the giant’s head had to come off if he was to put a final ending to the Palestinian threat. Swish! The blade goes and off went the giant’s head. The Israelites break into a cheer. The boy breaks into a prayer. Perhaps he whispers in prayer what was once his battlecry: “Thank you, Lord. Truly, this battle belongs to you!”

*——————————————–*

The old man wipes his tears away. Those were years ago. Time has a way of making one forget. Yes, he is now a king nearing his last retirement years. He had won countless battles, issued numerous edicts and conquered many victories. This King has accomplished much now. But somehow the emptiness from within has eclipsed his glory from without.

Being king means being sufficient, he thought. You have everything you need. An army at your beck and call. Money at your disposal. A kingdom under your feet. But the king swallows hard at these thoughts. Because he remembers, as he takes a peek at his past, that self-sufficiency, like what he has now, was the giant’s ticket to defeat. When the giant felt he was sufficient, he became arrogant. Feeling invincible, he became reckless. Thinking he was indestructible, he clashed with real power — the power of God-sufficiency.

The king remembered how, as a young shepherd boy, he completely relied — not on his weapons, nor his skills, nor his influence — but on his God. He was “God-sufficient”. And he won his battles because he relied on his God.

The King digs his face in his palms and prays: “Dear God, forgive me if I became so reliant on who I am and what I have. You are my real power, my true source of strength. Goliath isn’t dead. I still have my goliaths in my life today. Goliath came to life when I fell into adultery with Bathsheeba. Goliath rose from the dead when, out of jealousy, I placed an innocent man, Uriah, on the frontlines of the battlefield. Goliath resurrected when I couldn’t keep my family together. Lord, self-sufficiency is a lie. Life is too big for me. Teach me once more to rely on you alone. For the battle belongs to you and the glory is yours alone.”

*———————————-*

Some modern-day self-help gurus teach us an ancient lie — that we are self-sufficient to fight the challenges of life. My friend, life is a Goliath. And the only way to win is to do what David did —- to rely on Somebody bigger than life.

Your Goliath could be anything from a broken marriage, to loneliness, to regular dialysis sessions, and to depleted funds. But you cannot fight them on your own. Give the battle to God and only then can He fight for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not promoting low self-esteem. Instead, what I suggest is you esteem yourself but not for what you can do but for what God has done, what God continues to do, and what God will continue to do for you.

So march on that field with faith. Look your Goliath straight in the eye. Bring out your slingshot and tiny stones. Say a little prayer. And then surge ahead exclaiming valiantly, “The Battle is the Lord’s!”

Believe, my friend, it really is.

By Chance or By Choice

As you read this, some things are changing in and around you. And try if you must, but you cannot stop it. Change is definitely inevitable. Time moves. The economy fluctuates. You age. Whether you admit it or not, your life is changing with every single passing second.

While change is beyond your control, your response to it is not. Some people simply change by chance. Others change by choice.

Changing by chance is simply called transition.

Changing by choice is better known as growth.

Changing by chance is for victims.

Changing by choice is for victors.

Losers are victims of change. They aimlessly drift with it. Change itself determines how they will change. Talk about a man who loses his job. He sulks. He whines. He gets angry with life. And one day he finds himself desperately clinging on to a life that has surreptitiously left him behind.

Winners, on the other hand, are visionaries of change. Change does not victimize them. In fact, they choose to utilize change to grow. They see changing not simply as a shift from one situation to another but rather as an opportunity to grow.

In the Old Testament, when Joseph son of Jacob  was sold by his brothers as a slave to Egyptian traders, he could have simply allowed this sudden turn of events in his life to victimize him. But not Joseph. He was a winner. He made use of this unfortunate event to grow in his abilities, in his character and in his faith. And in the end, he grew to become the highest official in Egypt, next only to Pharaoh.

What happened to Joseph similarly happens to us too.

Teenagers sent off to study for the first time in a distant land away from their families experienced what I am talking about. Widows and widowers are familiar with this.  The man surprised by the news of  a malignant tumor found in his brain knows what I mean.

But unfortunately, not all of us respond the way Joseph did. We helplessly allow change to shape our lives and determine our future.

Today, I challenge you to use changes in your life to grow. Don’t waste life’s transitions. Grab changing times by the horns and learn from them. Be wiser. Be stronger. Be better.

Change by choice.

I remain, in Christ,

Bobby