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” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
And after Jesus had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. Matthew 14:23
Good morning Prayer Team!
Imagine if you only spoke to your spouse or your child once a week. What kind of a relationship do you think you would have? Probably not a very good one. Many people take this approach to God—they speak to Him in church on Sundays and don’t give Him much thought the rest of the week.
It is essential in the Christian life that we spend some time alone with God each day. At summer camp, one of my favorite times of the day is actually called “Alone with God.” Because we have a fifteen minute block of time on the schedule where all activity stops and we are alone with Him. It is a time to pray, to read the Bible, and it is provided on the schedule.
Unfortunately, life is not like summer camp. We set our own schedules. And just as we schedule other things in our lives, we need to schedule time for prayer. We each have a routine in the morning—we brush our teeth, we comb our hair, we get a cup of coffee, we have breakfast. We never leave home without doing these things. Prayer should be part of our morning routine. Before stepping out into the world, we should spend a few moments alone with God, in God’s world.
Even Christ, the Son of God, took time alone to pray. Today’s Bible verse tells us that after a busy day of preaching and teaching, Jesus retired up a mountain alone to pray, to refocus, to recharge. This is the purpose of prayer, to bring God into closer focus, to deepen our relationship with Him, to recharge ourselves before a long day or after one. Prayer puts a layer of grace on us, a layer of God’s glory. Prayer gives us an extra boost of whatever it is we need—if it is wisdom, or focus, or confidence or hope. Prayer gives all of these things. This is why it is important that we retreat into prayer each day.
Prayer does not need to be lengthy—we don’t need to spend hours in prayer. Prayer does not need to be complicated—we can offer the same phrase or prayer over and over again. Just like we don’t need to read chapters of scripture at one time. Meditate even on one verse, say it over and over again, let God come into your heart and fill it with meaning.
Some people pray only on Sundays—they have their “God time” in church and never think about Him the rest of the week. Imagine talking to your spouse or child only once a week. That wouldn’t make for a strong relationship. It doesn’t make for a strong relationship when we only speak with God once a week either.
Think about how you communicate with those with whom you are close. It may be a lengthy conversation, or a short email or text. It may be many short emails or texts throughout the day. Prayer, ideally, should be the “long conversation” with God when we worship, and short, frequent spurts of communication spread throughout the day. A few minutes in the morning and evening, a prayer before meals, a prayer before traveling, and a prayer before beginning a task add up to many opportunities a day to pray.
Using a football analogy, prayer is like the huddle before each play. Before we run each play of our life, we should huddle with God in prayer. There are many “plays” each day. And there should be many huddles of prayer as well.
Some people need to create reminders to pray—one great way to remember to pray is to put a book or a rock on your pillow. In order to sleep you have to move the rock, that will remind you to pray. When you move the object, put it on the floor next to your bed. When you wake up in the morning, you need to move the object. Again, this will remind you to pray.
We don’t forget to brush our teeth when we leave the house. We don’t forget to get dressed. We can’t leave without our keys. These are all things that are part of our daily routine. We do them almost unconsciously. We can’t set the day in motion without these things. Prayer should work in the same way. It should be something that is part of our routine, and something we do almost unconsciously, as a way to set the day (and its respective events when we pray before them) in motion under the umbrella of faith and of God.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. (list five things for which you are thankful today). Lord, remember these Your servants (name several people for whom you wish to pray). Lord, be with me in the challenges I face today (ask God for specific things you need TODAY, like peace, patience, safety, efficiency). Walk with me today. Let me glorify You in all that I do today. Amen.
Photo credit: Forte Catholic
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