What Can We Ask For In Prayer?

Posted September 18, 2013 by Alvan
Categories: books


Make that: What can we NOT ask for?

Here’s a great testimony on the kind of things we can ask our Father for:

In the church, most prayer requests are limited to sickness, joblessness, kids in crisis, and maybe an occasional missionary. Yet Jesus’ prayer for daily bread was an invitation to bring all our needs to him. In the Greek, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6: 11) is an obscure expression that literally means “give us tomorrow’s bread today.” It hints at the abundance God wants to bring into our lives. I suspect that your refrigerator or your checking account have“tomorrow’s bread” already there.

Just once in our life Jill and I didn’t have tomorrow’s bread today. I was going to college full time and supporting our small family (our first daughter, Courtney, was a year old) with a part-time painting business. It was New Year’s Day 1975, and we had run out of food, money, and work. We’d sold our books, our jewelry, and our high-school rings. So we sat down at our kitchen table and prayed for food. The minute we finished praying, the phone rang. It was a painting customer. Could I come the next day? The next day I not only told the customer about how she was an answer to prayer, but I asked her for an advance. No sense getting too spiritual.

I was so struck by how immediately God answered our prayer that as I went to bed, I asked him for something bigger: God, would you change me? I wasn’t even sure I was a Christian; at the very least, Christianity wasn’t working in my life. I struggled with intellectual doubts. The Bible felt stale. It wasn’t just a low point — my whole life had been that way. The next morning I woke up with a song in my heart and a hunger for his Word that has never left. He changed me.

Often our need for daily bread opens doors to deeper heart needs for real food. The day after Jesus fed the five thousand, the crowds met him on the beach at Capernaum hungry for breakfast. Jesus told them he had better food for them: “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6: 33).

What other kinds of daily bread might we not ask for? How might our needs for daily bread show us our need for bread from heaven?

This is from Paul E. Miller’s book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, one of the best books that Ethel and I have read on prayer and that I heartily recommend.


A Detailed Prayer of Thanks

Posted November 24, 2012 by Alvan
Categories: celebrations, rejoicing

In the book “Wild Goose Chase” (p.60-62) Mark Batterson shares a letter sent to him after a message on prayer. I’m not exactly a detailed right-brained guy but this just impresses me and I read this book a few years back.

After your sermon at Union Station, I decided to approach your challenge to thank God for the daily miracles we generally expect from Him or even forget about. Instead of waiting for the evening, I decided to start right then on my walk back to the Metro. Knowing the list of thanks could be infinitely long, I decided to focus my prayer of thanksgiving only on miracles I was receiving at the moment of my prayer.

“Thank You, God, for aerobic respiration. Thank you for mitochondria, which right now are creating ATP. Thank You for ATP. Thank You for glycolysis. Thank You for pyruvate.”

With a biology degree, I ended up having alot of things on the list. By the time I got back to my place in Arlington, I was thanking God for each of the amino acids.

“Thank You, God, for glycine. Thank you for leucine. And isoleucine. And tryptophan.”

By the time I was thanking God for the fact that all organisms that form amino acids have the same chirality so that my body can reuse nutrient and cellular building blocks of the food I break down, I found myself in absolute awe of His creation.

I prayed while I took a walk outside, thanking Him for bones and ligaments and tendons. I also thanked Him that I somehow never took an anatomy course in college, because otherwise I would have felt compelled to thank Him for each bone by name, which would have definitely set me back in my quest to get through most of the miracles I was receiving at that moment.

I spent the day praying without ceasing! I literally didn’t stop and just consciously kept listing things I was thankful for. I listened to music and thank Him for my ears’ cochleae. While I made dinner, I thanked Him for xylem in the plants I was preparing. I spent a lot of time thanking Him for the molecular properties of water.

I thanked Him for the bacteria in my colon that help me digest food. I thanked Him for genetic recombination, which made developing and cultivating cotton plants possible for the jeans I was wearing.

By the time the sun set and it was dark at nine o’clock, I think God was amused with the futility of me trying to thank Him for everything.

The Spirit finally hushed me, saying, “You can stop now.”

In The Land of Lions

Posted October 6, 2012 by Alvan
Categories: poems

Past the gates were lions stand
Through bridges old to slaughter
Into someone else’s land
Dances my little daughter

For we have come a-hunting
To engage the souls of men
But there is much that’s puzzling
Here in the lions’ den

Spoken words are alien tongue
As through the city we roam
Written script’s like elvish slang
To her all this seems like home

And here the world’s reversed
The Kingdom shows its light
For little ones recently nursed
The gates swing open wide

Folk do not keep their distance
Like wise men before a child
Without words, with but a glance
They make time, give gifts and smile

In certain light we’re warriors
Our weapons state-of-the-art
We make but dents in barriers
She goes and pierces the heart

Piper and a Lion

Sometimes I Feel Like Hitch

Posted July 9, 2012 by Alvan
Categories: movies, musings, youth workers

Spoiler alert! and you may not get it unless you’ve seen it first.

Recall the part wherein the lady asks him (near the end) about his job:

Allegra Cole: How did you know all that stuff about me?
[Hitch looks away]
Allegra Cole: Well, you really did your homework. Like at boarding school, when everyone used to tease me because I couldn’t whistle?
[Hitch looks up, confused]
Allegra Cole: And having him dance like a buffoon, knowing I can’t dance, either? Then telling him to drop mustard on his shirt so I’d feel like less of a dork? That was all you, right?
Hitch: Uh, no. Hell, no.
Allegra Cole: That was him?
Hitch: That’s got Albert written all over it.
Allegra Cole: Did you put him up to the inhaler?
Hitch: [stunned] Stop it. He did not show you that.
Allegra Cole: He chucked it right before he kissed me.
Hitch: So, wait… that stuff worked for you?
Allegra Cole: It was adorable.
[they both laugh]
Allegra Cole: What *did* you do?
Hitch: [smiles] Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I think that sometimes of the ministries that go on to become great, who at one point in the past one of theirs took up a training with us or learned something from us.  I think that could be true of participants who just recently underwent our seminars. They all have the potential for greatness.

How much of what they do in the future might be attributed to what we taught? Perhaps a lot. Perhaps a little.

Or maybe like Hitch says, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

And don’t get me wrong, that’s not something disappointing. If true, it would be quite okay with me.

Eulogy for Hortencia Cudal Asuncion

Posted March 6, 2012 by Alvan
Categories: celebrations

Below is the tribute delivered by my uncle, Leonardo C. Eduave, for my Lola Ning. This was on March 5, 2012 at around 9 in the morning.

A pleasant morning to everyone!

Will you please bear with me for a while and take time to answer this multiple choice question? Here it is:

Which of the following 3-word bio-pic titles on the life of Mrs. Hortencia Cudal Asuncion would be the most appropriate or fitting of all?

  • A. Against All Odds
  • B. Follow Your Bliss
  • C. Woman of Courage
  • D. Love Conquers All

So, just make a mental note of your best answer from any of those 4 choices because I’ll be giving you a total of 5 points if you get the right one (to be awarded in heaven when you’re there).

Out of the many possible vignettes that I could relate about Auntie ‘Ning’s life as her eldest male nephew, may I just highlight a few significant lessons from her life’s textbook—because it was a life that was so meaningfully lived!

There’s no doubt that my other cousins may have their own perceptions that Auntie ‘Ning was a stern or even strict aunt, and I would concur with that impression, only to some extent, because underneath that seemingly tough exterior shell, she was in my estimation, one of the most caring and passionate aunties that I have been privileged to know…

I must state up front that Auntie ‘Ning’s foremost passion was that of her relationship with… her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! That was very evident in the parade of tributes given by her children and grandchildren here last night. Truly, that deep and abiding faith in God has served and will continue to encourage us to emulate her example.

I also know for a fact that she had a passion for cooking and baking. Just think of “Sunflower” as an institution of wonderful gustatory delight. It could not have been started or sustained as an enterprise without her inspiration and blessing.

She was also passionate about crocheting and sewing! And I just hope that some of her handcrafted treasures could be preserved and perhaps eventually be handed down as heirlooms to the coming generations, because those items are now becoming rapidly vanishing art forms in the age of mass manufacturing by machines.

Auntie ‘Ning was also passionate about cleanliness and neatness. When you talk about a caring household management system even long before HRM became acceptable, well—she lived it and breathed it! I can’t remember any instant when I dropped by her house to find it messy or topsy-turvy—this is regardless of how many grandchildren & other toddlers were around.

I can still recall that there was a time she did not use any ordinary “Perla” bar soap for laundering here clothes. Instead, she used only the one that would float on water. And that brand was Ivory, you guessed it right! She was that quality minded.

A very reliable source has told me that Auntie ‘Ning had many suitors. Implication: she was a beautiful lady. My aunts & uncles are a beautiful and handsome group of people! (Para dili mo magmahay sa ako) That long list of admirers included one very lucky gentlemanly co-teacher at Sumpong Barrio School none other than… (drum roll please) Uncle Ben! Their May-December romance proved the skeptics wrong because their love affair has already stood the test of time. They were quite a twosome, being the first hand-holding couple I can remember who did not hide their affection from each other.

And, as if to belabor the obvious, I think that the love stories of Ruthie & Tito Bong, of Leslie & Clyde will serve to echo the romantic journey which Auntie ‘Ning & Uncle Ben had courageously taken. That trending pattern of loving relationships is definitely one of the hallmarks of the Asuncion family. I call it “Uniquely Asuncionic!”

So , if Uncle Esme was (to quote Dr. Allan Melicor at the cremation ceremony) “A Fighter To The Core,” then I would also consider my Auntie ‘Ning to be “A Fighter to the Core” for daring to defy the prevailing concepts of “age-gap” romances by following only the dictates of her heart. Besides it isn’t easy to weather and survive 10 years of widowhood unless you are emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually fit as a warrior!

So, based on what you’ve just learned, what’s your answer to the hypothetical question when I started?

If you answered A, give yourself 1 point. Those of you who chose B, that’s 2 points, C is worth 3 points and D is 4 points. Actually, the best answer that’s worth a full 5 points is E. All of the above!

Auntie ‘Ning, I know that you are now in the blissful & blessed presence of Jesus Christ and you are joyfully basking in reunion with Grandpa Santos, Grandma ‘Cela,

Auntie Ma, Uncle Esme, Auntie La, Auntie Ne, Uncle Mine, Auntie Lila, and of course, with the love of your life—Uncle Ben!

Thank you very much for being a great blessing to me and be assured that for as long as I live I will always treasure your memory very, very deeply within my heart!


Temporary Dwellings

Posted December 28, 2011 by Alvan
Categories: tough times

After the flash floods, some residents of Iligan City have returned to their homes but many more are staying elsewhere at the moment. San Lorenzo Parish is one of the places housing numerous people.

Another is the MSU-IIT Gymnasium. Going there last December 22, the estimated number of families was put at 2500 (around 12, 500 people).

Aside from these, smaller buildings (churches and basketball courts to name two) are also housing those who have no homes. Some are staying with relatives while hotels and inns are also packed with people coming from flooded areas.


Posted December 22, 2011 by Alvan
Categories: tough times

In the midst of the crisis there are some things that still bring joy. Like how the church continues to respond to the incomprehensible need. We have lost loved ones, the church building functions as a temporary shelter for the homeless and a funeral home yet we have not lost the will to help those in worse circumstances.

Some of those you see have experienced the terror of Typhoon Sendong personally (some have escaped with only the cloths they wore that evening) and yet they joyfully do what they can to help others.

More striking, they haven’t lost the automatic Pinoy response of smiling at the camera.

Call it what you want, to me that is spirit.