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.”
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Good morning Prayer Team!
How often should I pray? I have been asked this question, and I have asked this question myself to my Spiritual Father. Many Orthodox Christians practice a “prayer rule,” or “rule of prayer,” where they pray certain prayers at certain intervals of the day. As an example, someone may offer morning prayers and read one chapter of scripture each morning and pray the Small Compline prayers each night. These two times might amount to twenty minutes of prayer each day. Another person may pray for twenty minutes a day but intersperse prayer throughout the day—two minutes upon waking up, for a few minutes in the car, for a few minutes at the desk at work, again for a few minutes in the car on the way home and before falling asleep.
I remember once when I asked my Spiritual Father to suggest a prayer rule, he responded: “PRAY!” When we get so caught up in the mechanics of how, when and under what circumstances, we lose sight of the WHAT we are doing, which is praying to God. The most important thing in regards to this question of how often you should pray is that you should make a habit of praying each day. And whether it is twice a day, or ten times a day, make a habit of praying and stick to it.
If you ask any person who prays regularly, when do they pray, they will have a set answer—a certain time, place, space, and ritual of prayer. Each person’s may be different. Someone may say they pray in front of their icons, and someone else may pray with their hands on the steering wheel in the car. But every person who prays regularly, has a set pattern and habit of prayer. And this is what you want to do.
When someone asks me “how often do you talk to your wife?” or “how often do you talk to your son?” the answer is “as often as I can. At a minimum, I talk to them in the morning before I leave and at night when I get home. And sometimes I call them during the day, not for long periods, a quick call or a text. I make special time to spend with each of them and for us to spend as a family—this is extended time, more than the good morning or good night words.
Prayer works in the same say. You should say something to God in prayer each morning, and each night, at a minimum. You should speak to God during the day, quick prayers. And you should spend some special time with God each week which is an extended amount of time, that is what we call worship.
You have to pray outside of Sundays though. Once a week in church isn’t enough. In times of crisis isn’t enough. Imagine if I only spoke to my wife or son on Sundays and didn’t speak to them the rest of the week, what kind of relationship would we have? You can’t have a human relationship without communication. You can’t have a relationship with God without communication (prayer) either.
The communication has to be sincere as well. I recently heard a story by a pastor who said: “Imagine that a man and woman were married but lived in different rooms in the same house. And imagine that the man came into the wife’s room every morning and read a beautiful and eloquent poem to her about his love for her. It was a beautiful poem that many men across the world read to their wives. And then imagine that after reading this poem, the man went back to his room and his life and never said anything to his wife. The next morning, he would come back and read the same poem. It was a beautiful poem, but it is all he ever said to her.”
Prayer is not about following “rules” or “heaping up phrases” (even beautiful phrases) but speaking to God from our hearts. And it is not so important when you pray or even where you pray but THAT you PRAY!
Lord, thank You that I am alive to pray today. Thank You for the many blessings in my life. Bless the lives of those around me today. Be with every person with whom I will be on contact today. Remember those who are in any kind of need, sorrow or distress. Bless my travels, my work, my interactions with others and my family, today and always. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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