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
Pray constantly! I Thessalonians 5:17
Good morning Prayer Team!
Note: Beginning tomorrow, Saturday, February 20, I will begin a new unit of the Prayer Team, centered around Triodion, Lent, Holy Week, Pascha and Pentecost. The weekend reflections on the Liturgy will be on hold for a couple of months, as I will be writing about this special time of the church year. So, please read tomorrow’s reflection which will be an overview of the journey to come.
For the past many reflections, we have been discussing the topic of prayer. We’ve discussed what is prayer, what to say, whether to pray from a book or from the heart, how often we should pray, the correct posture of prayer, praying for others, asking others to pray for us and the benefits of prayer.
Reading reflections on prayer is a good thing. Reading and hearing about the experiences of others in prayer is a good thing. But none of that takes the place of your own experience of prayer. The reason why I started writing this prayer team almost a year ago was to encourage people to pray, and to pray with joy. It was to encourage people to pray for one another and to humbly ask that they pray for me.
I could write dozens of reflections on prayer. There are many books, by authors much more accomplished than me, on the subject of prayer. But the real beauty of prayer is something that must be discovered by each person.
Many years ago, I heard a priest give a sermon, comparing prayer to chocolate ice cream. He asked people how they would describe chocolate ice cream. Someone said it is cold, someone else said it is creamy. Another said it is refreshing on a hot day. Someone else said it is yummy. But we quickly ran out of descriptions for chocolate ice cream. You can only describe it so much, and then you really have to try it for yourself.
Prayer is the same thing. I know that prayer is powerful, for me. I know that it is challenging, for me. I know that a good prayer makes me feel joyful and confident. But it’s not about ME, or my prayer life or what prayer does for me. Prayer is about YOU and the LORD. It is the special time that YOU spend together with the LORD.
So, spend some special time with the Lord TODAY and every day. Start small and short and work your way to larger and more often. Start praying by yourself and work up to praying with others. The more you pray, the more confident you will be in prayer, and the more you will want to pray. Remember, God doesn’t grade our prayers. If you say “um” when you pray, that’s fine—it’s not a public speaking contest. Pray throughout the day.
Years ago, when I asked my Spiritual Father how often I should pray, and should it be in the morning, or the night, and for how long, he interrupted all of my questions and said “PRAY! It doesn’t matter if you pray in the morning or in the night, when or where you pray. Just make sure that a 24 hour period doesn’t go by in your life without offering a prayer.”
Think of all the things you ALWAYS do in a 24 hour period. Most of them probably involve hygiene. Most us wouldn’t dream of going 24 hours without a shower or brushing our teeth. Most of us cannot go 24 hours without eating. So, don’t go 24 hours without cleansing your soul through prayer and without feeding your soul through scripture. Make prayer part of your everyday life.
To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O My God, in You I trust, let me not be put to shame. . .
Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all day long. . .Turn to me, and be gracious to me; for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble and forgive all my sins. . .Oh, guard my life and deliver me. . .for I take refuge in You. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You. Amen. (Psalm 25: 1, 2, 4-5, 16-18, 20-21)
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