CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/7 April) — Someone said something attention-getting: “Pray less and work more!” He said this was the way to dig our society out of its problems and move the country forward.
It wasn’t really an exhortation to forsake prayer, but a reminder that prayer should not be a matter of mere incantations or even long hours of ritual devotion.
After all, he said, work done in the proper spirit can also be a form of prayer—a concrete expression of Godly thoughts. Thus, well-motivated work is prayer and the more we work, the more our prayers are answered.
He was right, of course. Prayer and action are not mutually exclusive. Prayer can either be words or deeds, and deeds are the better kind.
Physical exertion to earn the rewards of honest work is beneficial—working for a salary, striving to raise one’s standard of living, to provide for family, to volunteer in times of disaster, or to promote peace, harmony, cooperation.
These are earnest prayer; not just a plea or a begging but an investing of one’s energy and talent. It is the best kind of prayer. It produces tangible results.
This kind of prayer acknowledges God’s will, enriches man’s faith, and enhances his condition. And it affirms the moral of the Parable of the Talents.
In our society there’s so much of the wordy and devotional kinds of prayer. Too little of the deeds variety that give substance to prayer. So much is devoted to rituals and devotionals; too little work or affirmative action.
Balancing Life, After-life
God helps those who help themselves, we’re told. But we don’t always pay attention. To devote so much time pleading for God’s succor is not as good as doing God’s work and doing it well.
In an emergency, do we fall on our knees and merely ask the Lord or Allah for deliverance? Or do we swing into action—put out the fire, rescue the victim, stop the bleeding, escape the flood, or extend a helping hand?
They say we must render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things
that are God’s. But too often we confuse the two, rendering more time and effort on things that are God’s, devoting little to things that are Caesar’s.
Those who think they impress God more in this way—and thus be treated to the miracle of the loaves and fishes without having to work—have got it all wrong.
The things that are Caesar’s concern the workings of earthly life and relationships, the Social Order. God’s things concern the Divine Order.
To belittle Caesar’s concerns and concentrate on God’s concerns is to neglect the Social Order and thus to create a dysfunctional world.
Some overdo themselves and become exhibitionists, making grand gestures of piety, making a big deal out of religiosity. They punctuate their speech with praises for the Lord, send out pious text messages, or deliver long invocations even in frivolous gatherings.
Others mount the pulpit on Sundays and preach that all should love their neighbor. But talk to them on Monday about some neighbors and they will spare no expletives to denounce them as cheats and traitors and unfit human beings.
On the other hand, there are those who pray and invoke “the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful” but will not hesitate to kidnap or decapitate someone they dislike, or avenge a perceived wrong on their person or family through violent means.
Others underpay their workers and still others exact usurious rates from desperate people in need of a loan. Whether Christian or Muslim, both distort the values of society.
Those who perpetuate this blurring of the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s are feeding into the cataclysmic clashes that are increasingly occurring in today’s society.
Why should Muslim fundamentalists be any more menacing than Christian bigots?
Both violate human solidarity, inflame passions, undermine Filipino brotherhood, and upset the Social Order.
Manny among others is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at development academy of Philippines, member of Philippine Mission to the UN, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org