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.”
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.
Good morning, Prayer Team!
For our Archbishop Alexios, the honorable priests, the deacons in the service of Christ and for all the clergy and the laity, let us pray to the Lord.
In my weekend series of “Praying the Liturgy”, the next petition of the service is a prayer for the church leadership. Every church has a leader. The Orthodox Church is a hierarchical church, with several layers of leadership, from our Patriarch to our Archbishop, Metropolitan, parish priest, and lay leadership. In the Orthodox Church, the local parish comes under the leadership of a bishop (Metropolitan, Archbishop, Patriarch are titles given to bishops) and his local representative, the priest.
The role of the clergy is not to be dictators over the people, but to be leaders. The concept of “obedience” gets a bad rap in a world that craves independence. Yet, in our life, we “submit” obediently to our doctor, our dentist, the engineers who design and build our roads, the speed limit, etc. in order for us to live healthy and orderly lives. No obedience to anything would lead to a life of chaos. I don’t know much about medicine, so I submit to the expertise of my doctor. And I trust that his advice will lead me to a healthy life.
Following the leadership of the clergy leads to a more healthy church and a more successful spreading of the Gospel. Clergy, even the best intentioned, are human beings, and make mistakes. So, it is important to pray for the clergy as they lead us. That’s one of the reasons why our prayer team is so important to me—your prayers are helping my ministry. There is power in prayer, and I feel that power in my day-to-day work. So, thank you for your prayers and keep them coming.
The priesthood is also somewhat of a lonely life—there is usually no local peer group for the priests; I’m the only one in Tampa. And many decisions I make, especially in pastoral situations, are made with no one else around except the person or people I am ministering to. It’s hard to get every pastoral encounter, every sermon, every interaction right. And this is where your prayers come in. Thank you for your prayers, and keep them coming.
Lord, bless all those who serve Your church—whether they be bishops, priests, deacons, or lay leaders. Help everyone who serves as a leader in the church to always have wisdom, discernment, patience and love, and to serve with humility. Help our church community to thrive under its leadership, and may we work with our leaders to grow our church and spread our faith. Amen.
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