Prayer for the Philippines

The devastation in the Philippines caused by Tropical Storm ‘Sendong’ has been truly shocking. Stories of remarkable survival cannot compensate for the scale of the tragedy silently witnessed by the bodies of the dead which are still being washed ashore. The fact that so many corpses are unidentified and unclaimed suggests that in many cases whole families have been lost.

From a Christian perspective it is difficult to make sense of such disasters. For those who see the hand of God behind every event or believe that everything that happens has a purpose, such tragedies lead one to make conclusions which are morally unacceptable (that God deliberately visits such harm on innocent people) or logically contradictory (that this particular event has no meaning at all, or if God does have a purpose it is so inscrutable to be a mystery.) For myself I long ago abandoned the belief that everything that happens has a purpose; it seems to me that chance is written into the laws of the universe, or the processes that cause events such as these are so complex that they cannot be predicted (i.e. they are ‘chaotic’) or both.

In any case, as this analysis in the Philippine Daily Inquirer makes clear, this was not a purely natural disaster. Some of the factors that contributed to the intensity of the flash floods are wearyingly familiar from previous disasters in the Philippines: deforestation caused by illegal logging, concreting of the flood plain brought about by urbanisation, destablisation of the ground due to mining, rivers allowed to silt up, thus losing their capacity to hold flood waters. All these no doubt exacerbated by the infrequency of such storms in North Mindanao which meant that there was a much lower level of preparedness than in Luzon. There are serious questions to be asked whether there is the political will to deal with such issues, including halting the growth of the ever-expanding population of the Philippines which is putting so much strain on the natural environment.

The following prayer and hymn is offered by the Methodist Church Media Service:

Following the devastating floods in the Philippines caused by Tuesday’s typhoon, more than 650 people have been killed and another 800 people are still missing. The Methodist Church offers the following prayer and hymn for use by churches and individuals:

Lord,
When destruction comes, hasten rescue.
When pain comes, send your healing.
When all is in pieces, help us to rebuild.
When sanctuary is far off, bring peace.
When grief surrounds, mourn with us.
When words fail, be close.
When all feels lost, bring hope.
Amen.

When innocence is fractured
by nature’s shifting force,
and paradise is ruptured
as life is swept off course.
We come to pray our questions,
we come to share our grief;
in this, our act of worship,
to say that we believe.

As headlines overwhelm us
and make us close our minds;
as news from distant islands
brings death before our eyes.
We seek a hope to cling to,
a refuge to embrace;
lest in the grip of knowing
we lose our hold on grace.

How dare we speak of heaven
made human for our sakes,
or preach a loving Father
when seas and mountains quake?
We dare because our story
speaks of a love that came
to bear the cost of dying
and still would do the same.

In Christ our souls take refuge,
though not to hide from truth:
we face each anguished question
with faith, if not with proof.
We hear his wistful question:
“And will you leave me too?”
Though all the world should crumble,
We hope, O Christ, in you.

Recommended tune: Aurelia
Copyright © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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