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.”
For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20
Good morning Prayer Team!
The greatest gift you can give to someone is to offer their name in prayer to our God. After all, what greater gift can there be than to take the most intimate moments we have, those spent in prayer, and to offer someone’s name to God, in that special moment. Well, there is actually something even more powerful than praying to God on behalf of someone. And that is to pray to God on their behalf in their presence. The greatest gifts I receive are when someone asks “May I pray with you?” And I stand by silently and listen to someone offer a prayer for me. This is a very powerful experience.
Even better is being with someone and they offer a prayer for me, and then I offer a prayer for them. Both people have the opportunity to offer and to receive prayers. This is really a powerful thing.
I confess to you that this is something I have discovered only in recent years in my ministry. For many of the early years of my ministry, I was actually afraid to pray with people, and I AM A PRIEST!!! Because I thought people would think it is weird to ask to pray with them. Yes, I prayed in hospitals, and I prayed for people who are sick and asked me to pray for them, and I prayed when people came to confession and on other occasions. And most of the time I offered the prayer that is in a service book.
However, when people came to my office for an appointment, or just to chat and catch up, I didn’t have the “courage” to say, “hey, we’ve spent half an hour together, can I offer a prayer for you and your family?” Finally, many years into the ministry, I crossed that bridge and now joyfully offer prayers for just about everyone who comes to my office. And you know what? When I ask someone if I can pray for them, no one ever tells me no. It’s the only question guaranteed to always be answered YES!!!
One day, one of my parishioners asked me if they could pray for me, in my presence. And were they being too bold to make a suggestion that they actually pray with their priest? My answer was that I would love to be the recipient of someone else’s prayer, to just stand and listen to someone else pray for me. Someone asked to pray for me and MY answer was YES!!! And now, once in a while, with about three of my parishioners there are occasions when each of us will pray, and this is a wonderful thing.
I’m sharing this because you should bring prayer into your friendships. If you speak with a Christian friend for an hour, why not spend the last minute of that hour praying with each other. If you visit a friend who is sick in the hospital, as the visit winds down and you prepare to leave, and they are going to stay, you absolutely should pray with them.
As we said earlier, God doesn’t grade prayers, so you don’t have to worry about what you say. You don’t have to pray like a polished priest or theologian who is always praying out loud. And your prayers do not have to be long. Just say something sincere for a friend, and allow a friend to offer something sincere in prayer for you. Oftentimes, when I sit down to talk to someone and I know the subject matter will be heavy, I pray “Lord, You have said where two or three are gathered in Your name, there You are in the midst of them, come now and stand with us as we talk to each other, that our interaction may bring us closer together and may give glory to Your holy name.”
I’ve been an Orthodox Christian my entire life. And for most of my life, I’ve dismissed praying with others as being “something the Protestants do.” I confess I’ve even looked upon it with some measure of disdain and certainly discomfort. But no more. I’ve discovered how powerful it is to pray with someone else, to embody this verse of “two or three gathered in His name.” And I think that we’ve missed the boat on something really beautiful. To offer the name and need of another person in their presence. For another person to offer our name and need in our presence.
This is one of those things that I can just about GUARANTEE will go well. It just takes a little courage to do it the first time. Prayer for others. Worship with others in the context of community. But learn to pray with one or two other people, with each person offering a prayer. You’ll discover that this is really a powerful thing. If you don’t know where to start, ask a close friend or your spouse if they would be willing to pray with you. And offer something sincerely to God for them, and then they will offer something sincerely for you.
Lord, give us the courage to pray with one another. Open the doors so that prayer can occur in my relationships. Give me the words to offer and the comfort and confidence to offer them, so that I may personify your words that where two or three are gathered together, there you are in the midst of us. Amen.
Have a prayerful day!
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