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
And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7
Good morning Prayer Team!
Yesterday, I wrote about the elements of a good prayer. And it may have left you with a question, what about prayers from a prayer book? Let me say from the outset that there is nothing wrong with offering prayers from a prayer book. There are those who think that the ONLY acceptable prayer is one from a book. I would respectfully disagree with this notion.
I personally use a combination of prayers that I know, along with prayers from my heart. The best way to explain this is an analogy of working out at the gym. Most people who work out spend a few minutes on the stationary bike to “warm up.” Once they are warmed up, they then proceed to whatever area they want to work out on a particular day.
There are so many prayers that one can use to warm up. The prayer to the Holy Spirit is a great way to open prayer (see below in today’s prayer). The Lord’s Prayer is also a great way to open in prayer. The “problem”, if you will, with prayers from a book, is that when you offer the same prayer all the time, it can become rote and you can almost say it without feeling. I watched people say “Kyrie eleison” (Lord have mercy) 40 times because that’s what the book says while counting on their fingers, which almost defeats the point. God isn’t counting, and neither should we.
There is, of course, a benefit to offering prayers from a book. It is relaxing on the mind—you don’t have to think of the words.
The Psalms, I have found, speak to us in a very personal way. They are written in the first person. There is a Psalm that captures virtually every emotion. Before there were any prayer books, there were the Psalms, which are a great resource when it comes to prayer.
When I feel sad, I pray Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
When I feel repentant over sins, I pray Psalm 50/51: “Have mercy on me o God”
When I feel unsure of what to do, I pray Psalm 142/143: “O Lord, hear my prayer.”
When I feel confident and joyful, I pray Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
So you see there is a Psalm for every emotion, every mood and virtually every situation. The Psalms are excellent prayers. I encourage you to read the book of Psalms and make an index for yourself of which Psalm captures which emotion in you, and then when you are feeling a certain way, pray the Psalm that best captures that emotion for you.
If prayer is speaking to God, then we should also feel comfortable speaking to Him from our hearts, about the individual needs and concerns that we all have. I remember speaking to someone who was unsure of how to pray. So I asked him what was he doing after he left my office. He said that he was driving to work, had an important meeting he was nervous about, and then was going home. So I said, “Can’t you offer a prayer and capture these things that you are doing in a way that offers them up to God? To say ‘Lord, thank You for this day, keep me safe in my travels, watch over me in my meeting today, and bring me home safely to my family, whom I ask that you keep safe today. Amen.’” This is a good prayer! THIS is what prayer is about—offering our thoughts to the Lord from our hearts, with OUR words.
Oftentimes, when I hear a confession, after I offer the prayer of Absolution, which is written (and required to be offered), while the person is still kneeling, I will offer a prayer asking for specific things that we covered in the confession—whether it be blessing their family, helping them stay away from temptations, whatever. Many times when I open a meeting with prayer, I offer the Prayer of the Holy Spirit, “Heavenly King, Comforter,” in order to “get the ball rolling” by asking the Holy Spirit to come and be with us, but then I add my own words, asking God for His blessings in specific ways related to the task at hand and the people involved in it.
There is certainly value in using both a prayer book, and prayers from the heart. But the theme of this week is this: PRAY!
Lord, thank You for the gift of another day. Be with me in all that I will do today. Be with me in my ____________(fill in the blank with your activities: travel, meetings, family time, decisions). Help me to glorify You in all that I do and say today. Bless everyone that I will interact with today. And bless every interaction that I have with them. Amen.
Have a great day!
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