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
Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you; behold I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you; I will keep nothing back from you. Jeremiah 42:4
Good morning Prayer Team!
Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord.
AGAIN! Again we have to pray? Again, Father Stavros you are writing on this petition?
The answer is YES. Why this petition so many times? Because it includes the two things that seem to elude us the most in our Christian lives—prayer and peace.
Prayer, when we were children, was a rote practice—we prayed at meals, maybe. Nightly prayers, once in a while. My generation never really learned HOW to pray. We listened to the priest pray in church. There were opening and closing prayers at the end of church events. But I can’t recall ever hearing anything inspirational about prayer. And as I have gone through life, prayer has been an obligation, sometimes a chore, then it became a habit, and only in recent years has it become a joy.
To the one who hasn’t discovered the power of prayer, it seems more like mumbling something to an unseen, unanswering God. Prayer is a place to go when you have no place else to go, and many people go to prayer only in times of crisis.
At our recent summer camp, we spent a lot of time in prayer. We had a 15 minute time “alone with God” every day, where everything would stop and we would have time to sit in silence in prayer. We didn’t have to make the time, it was provided for us. There would be a prayer before and after every meal. There would be prayers throughout the day at various events. As the week would wear on, small prayer groups would start with counselors or campers. Sometimes people would stand in a circle, sometimes they might even hold hands. Sometimes one person in the group would pray and other times everyone in the circle would say something. And NO ONE ever said, “What?! We have to pray again?!” As an Orthodox Christian for 43 years, and a priest for 17, I have to say we Orthodox really missed the boat on prayer, both doing it alone and doing it with others. So, as I write on this petition, “again and again,” it is a good reminder to ME about the importance of prayer and I hope to you as well. Prayer is beautiful, powerful, comforting. Whether it is done alone or in the presence of others, prayer is what makes the difference in my life.
I remember a priest one time giving a sermon on prayer and he compared it to chocolate ice cream—he said I can describe ice cream only so much—it is cold, it is sweet—but then you have to try it for yourself. And it’s the same thing with prayer—many have written books on prayer but at some point, you just have to try it for yourself and you will know its power.
Now, to peace. If someone asked me “what’s the one thing you want to change about your life,” I would answer, “to have more peace.” Certainly, it would be nice if there was more peace in the world, but on a more personal and selfish basis, I’d love to have more peace in my own life. I’d like to have less stress and more peace. I’d take peace over money any day. What good is all the money in the world if you are stressed out?! And doctors will tell you the key to living a long life is diet and exercise but even more important, managing stress, and the answer to that is finding peace. If I want peace from others, I’ve got to bring peace to others. A great reminder—prayer and peace, this is what we need most in our lives. And we need to be reminded again and again. Marketing executives tell us that it takes “7-12 touches” (commercials, reminders) for a message to sync in with a consumer. Even the authors of the liturgy understood that!
Lord, thank You for the gift of the Divine Liturgy. May its prayers and petitions permeate my heart and pour out into my life. Please help me to be a person of prayer. Bless me to know its power. Make prayer something that will bring joy and comfort to my life. Help me to be a person of peace. Help me to bring peace into every situation I encounter today. Surround me with peaceful people. And give me patience when I cannot find peace. Amen.
Have a great 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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