Weekly Reflections: The politics of prayer
By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
May your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10
The opening prayer of Press Secretary Jesus Dureza at the Cabinet meeting in Malacañang last Tuesday created a controversy among political and religious leaders in the country. In his prayer, he said in part, in front of the cameras, “Bless the President so she will have the forbearance, good health, tolerance to lead this nation up to 2010 and perhaps who knows, even beyond.”
Opposition leaders criticized the Press Secretary for using prayer as a trial balloon to gauge the reaction of people relative to the issue of charter change that would pave the way for the extension of the President’s term beyond 2010. Secretary Dureza, however, said he was just joking, believing that God has also a good sense of humor. Religious leaders, like Bishop Oscar Cruz of Pangasinan, were not happy about it. Bishop Cruz had to remind the good Secretary that prayer is a serious matter and should not be taken as a joke.
Dureza’s prayer shows us that prayer has its own politics, for it deals with power. This is not about the power of the human, however, rather it concerns the power of the divine. It is about how the power of the divine is being appropriated by the human.
Prayer of the hypocrites
In his teaching ministry, Jesus Christ our Lord also criticized the prayers of people whom he called hypocrites, presumably referring to the Scribes and the Pharisees. They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them (Mt. 6:5).
They might not be praying in front of the cameras, like Secretary Jesus Dureza, but still what they were doing was just for show. It was simply intended for people to hear and to see them praying. Their real intension was not to communicate with God, but to show to people as to what they really were, and to communicate what were deep in their hearts and minds. Also, they used a lot of meaningless words thinking that God would listen to them (Mt.6:7).
Jesus Christ our Lord had to teach his disciples how to really pray, and strongly warned them that they should not follow what the hypocrites were doing (Mt.6:9-13). Perhaps, the likes of Jesus Dureza, could also learn how to really pray from Jesus of Nazareth.
How to pray
First of all, through our Biblical text Jesus Christ our Lord is in effect saying to us that when we pray, we honor not the unpopular name of the President, but the holy name of our Father in heaven.
Secondly, when we pray, we do the will, not of the President, but the will of our Father in heaven, which is no other than the coming of the reign of justice and peace in our part of the earth as it is in heaven.
Thirdly, when we pray, we ask our Father in heaven not what the President wants, but what we really need as a people, particularly the need for food for the hungry each day due to economic injustice.
Fourthly, when we pray, we ask the Father in heaven not to exonerate the President of the sins she had committed, but for the Spirit to convict us all of our communal sins of commission and omission that would bring about genuine repentance and forgiveness and healing in our land.
Fifthly, when we pray, we ask the Father in heaven not to give more power to the President beyond 2010, but to help us overcome the trials of hardships and difficulties we have been experiencing under her administration, and to keep us safe from being judicially or extra-judicially killed, abducted, tortured or made to disappear by the evil forces under her command.
Finally, when we pray, we affirm not the political dominion and power of the President, but the eternal dominion and power of the King of kings and the Lord of lords unto whom all presidents should bow down and confess. Amen. #