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 the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Good morning Prayer Team!
One of the ways that the word “peace” is defined is as “absence of conflict.” Yet, conflict is part of daily life. Thus, the pursuit of peace in our lives is a daily battle. Peace is one of the “fruits of the Spirit,” which St. Paul writes about in Galatians 5:22. And true peace comes through a relationship with the Lord, made stronger with a strong prayer life.
Many times I have sat in the altar on a day when there are no services. I sit near the altar table, see the Gospel on the center of the altar table, with all the appointments in their proper place. The table is “at rest,” in the sense that it is not being used. But I can sense power and strength as well as serenity and peace. The same can be said for sitting in front of an icon, or merely sitting still and praying to the Lord. A sense of power and strength comes over us, as well as a serenity and peace. Granted, we are human beings and in our distractions, we probably won’t feel that strength and peace each time we pray. But more often than not, this is the feeling that comes through prayer. Prayer does not require many words, it doesn’t even require that much time, but it requires us to slow down our thoughts, to “lay aside our worldly cares” (Cherubic Hymn) so that we can enjoy the peace of God.
Often there is conflict between what we feel we are expected to do and what we feel we should do. In these moments especially, it is important to step back and seek clarity from the only source that is free of such entanglements, God.
A well-known saying is that you can’t get a square peg in a round hole. And my Spiritual Father has often told me that the right decision is the one that brings peace. When making decisions, if you are trying too hard to get the square peg in the round hole, or your decision is not bringing you peace, then it’s probably not the right decision. The peaceful decision is not necessarily the easy decision, or the decision that doesn’t require work. But one can make a difficult decision and be at peace with it. And this is the kind of peace that comes from leaving room for the Lord in the decision making process.
So important is the concept of peace that it is one of the most-used words in the Divine Liturgy. When the priest says to us “Peace be with you all,” he is wishing us to have the kind of peace St. Paul is talking about in his letter to the Philippians, a lasting peace, a peace which passes all understanding, a peace that guides our hearts and minds to Christ, even in the midst of the stressful lives we all live.
One last question for you to ponder today, and it is this: Are you a peacemaker, or a peace taker? Ask yourself this question as you come into conflicts today-is what you are doing in the conflict working towards peace or escalating the conflict. Peace in the world begins with peace in ourselves-this comes from prayer. It continues with us striving to make peace with those around us-to be peace-makers, not peace-takers.
Lord, thank You for the gift of peace that is always accessible through prayer. Help me today to manage my conflicts by bringing You into the many decisions I will have to make. Help me to promote peace by the way I behave today. Help me to encourage others to strive for peace as well. Please guard my heart and mind today, so that I may have the peace of Christ Jesus, which surpasses all understanding. Amen.
Have a peaceful day!
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