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.”
Moses said to the Lord: “I am not able to carry all this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me”. . . And the Lord said to Moses “I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit which is upon you and put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.” Numbers 11:14, 17
Good morning Prayer Team!
One of the worst feelings in the world has to be loneliness. If I break my arm and I feel pain, it is not as bad as the feeling of loneliness. The first reason is because there is a specific way to repair a broken arm—it takes a certain amount of time and you are generally back as good as new. The second reason is that we all know people who have broken their arms. It happens all the time. So there is no fear of the unknown.
With loneliness, there is no one specific way to fix it, and no specific time period, and no two people suffer from loneliness in the same way. And yet, loneliness is not something that only a few people suffer from. All people, at some point or other, will feel alone.
Because we have God, we are never truly alone, in any circumstance. I have a lot of friends, a wonderful wife, a beautiful family, and yet under certain circumstances I can feel alone. When I’m the only priest standing in front of the congregation at a funeral, trying to make sense of something that makes no sense to anyone, that’s a lonely feeling. Because in that moment, no family member, or friend, or anyone, can help me. No one can take the moment away. All of us have moments like these. Doubt and despair creep in at moments like these. The devil sends distraction also.
This is why a good prayer life is important. Because in communicating frequently with the Lord, one never truly feels alone. There is always “someone” (THE LORD!) to speak with. When we ask the Lord to send His grace upon us, to fill in the gaps in our thinking, in our emotions, in wherever we are feeling at a deficit, then we are not alone. I can’t tell you how many times that prayer has brought me comfort and has taken away my sense of loneliness. Many times in prayer, I ask God to “stand with me,” or to “be with me,” in something I am doing. And sometimes my prayer is as simple as that: “Lord, please come and stand with me as I am about to do_________,” or “Lord, be with me in this moment. Prayer provides an instant relief for these feelings. Prayer provides instant strengthening. Prayer, in some sense, is like wearing a life jacket when you go on a boat. You put on the life jacket and you know you are safe. And most people will tell you they won’t get in a boat without putting on a floatation device, they wouldn’t dare go out on the water without appropriate protection. And likewise, those who pray regularly will tell you that they won’t go out the door without offering a prayer, because they don’t want to take on the challenges of the day without first having put on the proper spiritual protection, which is prayer.
When I pray, I feel safe. And when I feel safe, then I am confident. And when I am confident, I cannot feel lonely, because I know that I am not alone, I know that I do not step into any challenge alone.
So, for those who feel alone in any circumstance, go to the Lord and ask Him to stand with you. Ask Him for the protection, strengthening and reassurance that can only come from Him. When we make what we are doing all about Him, when we “go with Him,” then we will not feel alone in what we are doing, and we won’t feel as those there is no one to talk to.
Having said that, we exist not only in relationship to the Lord but in relationship to each other. Loneliness is a real challenge for many people. Many people really don’t feel they have another person to talk to. So, in prayer, pray for those who have no one to talk to. Pray for those who are neglected. And for yourself to be a better listener and a better friend, so that no one who knows you, or me, can say that they have no one.
Lord, thank You for always being at my side. Even when I feel alone, I know that you are there. Come and stand with me today. Be with me as I make decisions. Fill the void of emptiness when I feel alone. Strengthen those who are lonely and sad today. And help me to be a better friend today, to be a good listener, and to stand with those that I meet, as You stand with me, so that I can help build up the confidence of others, just as You help in building up mine. Amen.
Have a great day!
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