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.”
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before Him. Psalm 22:27
Good Morning Prayer Team!
Yesterday we spoke about where to pray, and that having a place to pray should not be hindrance to prayer and that prayer should not only occur in the church but outside of the church. Having said that, there are many people who don’t believe in organized religion. They don’t feel it is necessary to pray inside a church.
While prayer outside the church is essential, prayer inside the church is essential as well. We call prayer in the church WORSHIP. Worship is prayer in a corporate context, utilizing a structure of prayer called a service. At the center of worship is the Sacrament of Holy Communion, a sacrament that can only be done in the context of worship.
In worship, our prayers are directed, in an extended prayer called a service. For instance, when we have a wedding service, the faithful come together to pray in a structured way for the couple that is being married. The couple partakes in a sacrament, and the people join around the couple to pray for them. The prayer is conducted in a structured way, every wedding is the same. When we come together for Holy Week services, we worship and pray to the Lord as commemorate His Passion. In worship, we come together to pray, to remember and to learn.
The hymns of worship in the Orthodox Church can be classified in three ways, which also define the three goals of worship. There are hymns which glorify God, which is the first goal of worship—to glorify God in the context of communal prayer. There are prayers and hymns which ask God for things. In worship, we offer prayers and petitions to God for everyone—for peace in the world, for health for everyone—these are petitions and prayers that are important to each person, no matter their circumstance.
The vast majority of hymns and even some of our prayers in worship are informational—they teach us, they help us to learn and to remember what it is we are doing as Christians, as well as where we are going. If you are not worshipping, sharing prayer and fellowship in a corporate context, if you are going at your spiritual life alone, you may get misdirected, or take a wrong turn, or forget where it is we are going as Christians.
This is especially true in a time of crisis. There are times when our faith is shaken—we are disappointed that our prayers have not been answered. Life circumstances—illness, job loss, accidents, etc.—cause us to question our faith, and bring sadness to us. In worship, we enjoin our prayers not only with the saints, who are worshipping with us, but with each other. In worship, we “lift each other up.”
When we pray in the Divine Liturgy, “therefore Master guide the course of our lives for our benefit, according to the needs of each of us,” (Trans. Holy Cross Seminary Press) we are supposed to, in that moment, “lift up” the needs of those around us, the needs of the people we know, and even the needs of those around us who we do not know. When we pray “Remember, Lord, those whom each of us calls to mind and all of Your people,” this is again an opportunity to “lift up” the names of those around you, those that you know, and even those you don’t, for us to pray “for all those who have gathered in worship and prayer.”
In the context of worship, there is strength, that “I’m not in this alone,” and even if I don’t know all the people I am worshipping with, I am sharing in the Christian journey, its ups and downs, with other people. Having said this, it is important to get to know the people that we worship with, so that we can not only lift them up in general in worship, but so that we can create personal relationships with them so that we can be able to offer personal support and assistance when it is needed.
There is a saying “one Christian is no Christian.” And “no Christian is an island.” Even in monastic settings where a monk lives in isolation, he still comes back to the monastery to worship in a communal setting. In our Christian lives, it is essential that we pray in a community setting. It is essential that we find time to pray each day alone. But it is just as important that we find time each week to pray in the context of worship, in a community.
Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my groaning. Hearken to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You do I pray. O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You, and watch. For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not sojourn with You. The boastful may not stand before Your eyes; You hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men. But I through the abundance of Your steadfast love will enter Your house, I will worship toward Your holy temple in the fear of You. Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me. Psalm 5:1-8
Have a beautiful day!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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