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.”
Good morning Prayer Team!
I find that living my life using certain mantras and affirmations helps to give me daily direction. When I feel like I’m getting knocked around and losing my focus on God and on goodness, or even when I just feel lost, I go back to these mantras and affirmations that I have learned over the years and if I can’t find my focus entirely, at the very least, I get myself headed in the right direction.
So when St. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, be anxious for nothing, what does he mean? That is totally unrealistic, is it not? Most of our anxieties are about things in the future, even if they are hours or days in the future. One problem with being anxious all the time is that if you look too far into the future, you miss out on the present possibilities.
Here is a simple example from real life. I have an 8 year old son. And I do wonder sometimes will he make it in life, or will he get to college, or have meaningful friendships, or run afoul of the law, or be able to take care of himself after I’m dead and gone. But what if I bring these thoughts to mind while I’m watching “Star Wars” or reading with him? Then I’m missing out on the present. I do think about the future, but I try to make the most out of the present.
Here are three mantras I have learned over the years:
80% of life is just showing up-When you “show up”, things are possible. So, while not every liturgy or every prayer is amazing or life-changing, if I never attend the liturgy or if I never pray, then I will never have the opportunity for an amazing or life-changing experience. The same can be said with doing well in school, or at work, or having a successful marriage-If you don’t “show up,” nothing is going to happen.
Be present-People ask me if I miss my family when I go to summer camp. And the answer is, I miss them at night when I’m alone with my thoughts. But during the day, as I’m teaching classes, or hearing confessions, I’m present in what I’m doing. When I’m at church, I try to have my mind on the task at hand. When at home with family, I try to leave the concerns of work aside and focus on my family. (Yes, I fail on this at times like we all do). But if I’m so concerned about what it happening later or tomorrow or next week, then I’m going to miss out on what is happening now.
The only thing that is guaranteed is this moment-while I hate to think about it, I’m not guaranteed that I’ll live long enough to see my son go to college. There is no guarantee that he lives long enough to go to college. There is no guarantee that I’ll be alive by the time you read this message. So, I have to make the most of this moment, whether I’m writing, or talking to someone, or praying or worshipping or working or having fun. I have to make the most of this moment, because THIS MOMENT is ALL that I am guaranteed.
Sufficient for today is its own needs-The needs of any given day are few. Today I have a need for safe travel, wisdom, efficiency, and patience. Those are the needs. And these are the needs that I will make known to God in prayer. This is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer for the Lord to “give us this day our daily bread,” to give us what we need today to get through today.
In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God gave them manna from heaven every day, enough to eat on that day. Only on Friday did extra manna fall which they were to save up for the Sabbath. Every day, they were promised that they would receive what they needed, no more, and no less. They still had to come out and collect the manna every day, they still had to trust God to provide for their daily needs. And it’s still the same today. We have to rely on the Lord every day to provide for the needs of the day. We’ve got to slow down and look at life on a day by day basis, a moment by moment basis, making the most of each moment and each day.
Lord, thank You for the gift of today. Thank You that I woke up today. Thank You for the possibilities that my day will bring. Walk with me today, in each moment, in each task, in each encounter, in each challenge. Help me to trust in You to provide the needs of today. Help me not to focus on things over which I have no control, but to be present with each person I will encounter today and to make the most of each opportunity that will come my way. Amen.
Have a great day!
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