Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Good morning Prayer Team!
And make us worthy, Master, with confidence and without fear of condemnation, to dare call You, the heavenly God, Father and to say:
Two of the boldest statements of the Divine Liturgy are found in a prayer that precedes the Lord’s Prayer and in the Lord’s Prayer itself. In the prayer that precedes the Lord’s Prayer, which is usually offered inaudibly by the priest (see full text of prayer at the end of this reflection), the first words of the prayer are: “We entrust to You loving Master, our whole life and hope.” This is a bold statement indeed. Because if we indeed entrust our whole life to God, it means that we remain calm when stuck in rush hour, we forgive the person who has really hurt us, we don’t fly off the handle when we are wronged, and we gently correct someone who has done something wrong rather than embarrassing them. It means that at every juncture in life, we make the Godly decision, rather than the human one.
To entrust the Lord our “whole hope” means to be able to trust God in all circumstances. So, if one has lost a job, or just been diagnosed with a serious illness, or has a child with a severe handicap, or some other serious or permanent condition, he or she goes to God with perfect trust and does not allow discouragement and disappointment to creep in.
If I really think about this phrase, “I entrust to You loving Master, my whole life and my whole hope,” I would feel like a total hypocrite. Because I do get annoyed in rush hour, I sometimes have a hard time forgiving those who have wronged me, I sometimes get angry when I am wronged and sometimes correct in a way that is unnecessarily harsh. I’d like to think I’d maintain hope in God under very serious circumstances but so far, I haven’t had anything very serious happen to me.
This prayer is not discouraging to me, however, nor is it meant to be. This prayer puts out the ideal for us. We are to shoot for the ideal in our lives. The ideal is to be like God—loving, forgiving, without sin. This is why we pray for a “perfect, holy, peaceful and sinless day,” rather than saying “for a somewhat perfect, partly holy, mostly peaceful, and relatively sinless day,” which is probably the more accurate statement. We pray for the ideal. We state the ideal. And we strive for the ideal. And when we fall short of the ideal, then we try for it again the next day. Our judgment before God will be based on our pursuit of the ideal, not on our failure to achieve it. God is going to judge us on what we did, not on what we didn’t do.
And after this prayer, we will offer “The Lord’s Prayer.” In the Lord’s Prayer, we also make a bold statement—“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This means that if we want all of our trespasses forgiven by the Lord, we must forgive all those who have trespassed against us. This means that we can expect from the Lord whatever measure of forgiveness we have offered others. This is a bold statement indeed.
Between these two prayers and the bold statements they make, we hear a supplication to the Lord by the priest: “And make us worthy, Master, with confidence and without fear of condemnation, to dare call You, the heavenly God, Father and to say:” This means, allow us to offer these bold statements which we are going to fail at again and again, allow us to offer them with confidence, rather than feeling like hypocrites, and allow us to offer them without fear of condemnation.
Most of us are familiar with the inspirational quote by Frank Outlaw:
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
If our destiny, if God’s intention for our lives, is for us to attain the Kingdom of heaven, then working backwards, this journey starts with our thoughts and our words, that hopefully evolve into actions and habits, which shape our character and allow us to fulfill God’s intention for our lives. So, it is good that we make these bold statements about entrusting our lives and our hopes to God. We hope that in boldly saying them, they will evolve into actions and habits. And in the meantime, we are asking God to allow us to say them with confidence so that we can evolve in them from words to actions to character, to eternal life. We are asking God to not condemn us as we say words that are really hypocritical to all of us. Rather we are asking God to allow us to say these words as a springboard to these words becoming actions and habits which shape our character and lead us to everlasting life.
It is amazing that the Divine Liturgy was written centuries before Outlaw’s famous quote, and yet his thoughts have been essentially stated in this line of the Divine Liturgy. The prayer that follows is the prayer offered by the priest immediately prior to this line of the Liturgy:
We entrust to You, loving Master, our whole life and hope, and we ask, pray and entreat: make us worthy to partake of Your heavenly and awesome Mysteries from this holy and spiritual Table with a clear conscience; for the remission of sins, forgiveness of transgressions, communion of the Holy Spirit, inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, confidence before You and not in judgment or condemnation.
Always strive for the ideal. And when you fall short, strive for it again, and again, and again!
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