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.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Goal-Setting for 2018
And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
Then man prays to God, and He accepts him; he comes into His presence with joy. Job 33:26
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Good morning Prayer Team!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas celebration, both in church and with family. In the Orthodox Church, we celebrate the Nativity for 12 days. While some of our neighbors may be taking down their trees today (I’ve never understood that), we stay in our festive mode through January 6. Even though today is the second day of Christmas, I want to turn our thoughts this week toward the New Year. If you’ve spent any time reflecting on 2017, you probably realize that there is lot of room for improvement for 2018, especially in the area of spirituality. So, the next four prayer team messages will be about spiritual goal-setting for the New Year.
The theme of the next four messages will be based on Acts 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” What we glean from this verse of Scripture concerns the activities of early Christians—prayer, worship (breaking of the bread), learning (the Apostles’ teaching) and fellowship. So, we will discuss each of these four and talk about goals for the coming year. Today we begin with prayer.
Prayer, as we know, is communication with God. Prayer is how we talk to God. There have been many books written on how to pray, and many prayer books tell us the words to pray. Allow me to quickly summarize some thoughts on how to pray. First, set a time each day to pray, and to sit “alone with God.” People who pray, if you ask them when they pray, they will tell you they have a set time. Second, create a mood where you can pray. While ideally we each have a prayer corner in our house with icons where we can offer our prayers, one can pray pretty much anywhere. More important than the place is the mood—it needs to be quiet and peaceful. It’s hard to pray with the television on, or in front of the computer. So, find a space where you can sit quietly, that isn’t filled with sensory stimulation.
Third, there are the words of prayer. There are many places one can find words to pray—start with “The Lord’s Prayer,” or “The Jesus Prayer.” Read one of the Psalms, or a prayer from a prayer book. Ideally, some of these words of prayer that have been written for us are part of our prayer life. However, prayer should end there. It is important for us to open our hearts with our own words of prayer. Pray for others, pray for ourselves, pray for various kinds of people in the world—doctors, soldiers, first responders, teachers, etc.
There are a few essential elements in a prayer—First is giving glory to God—you can do that in a few words. Open up the prayer with a greeting reflecting God’s glory, like “Heavenly Father,” or “Lord, Jesus Christ,” or “Almighty God.” Second is to come to God with a sense of gratitude. Thank God for the day or the circumstance in which prayer is being offered. Third, a sense of repentance. Ask God to forgive your sins of the past day and for you to stay Christ-centered in the day that has begun. Fourth, intercession. Ask the saints to intercede for you. And YOU intercede in prayer for others. Offer up names to God and pray for specific needs of specific people in your life. Fifth, supplication. Ask God for assistance with the specific things you need TODAY. Today is key. When I pray, I ask God for wisdom, patience, stamina, safety and joy. These are the things I need on a particular day.
Going back to today’s Bible verse from the Book of Job, we read the ideal way that prayer should occur: “Then man prays to God, and He accepts him; he comes into His presence with joy.” Ideally, prayer should be a joy. Prayer is the most frequent way we come into the presence of God. When we pray, God accepts all prayers. He doesn’t grade them. So, in setting a goal for 2018 for prayer, find a time and place where prayer can occur, and if you are not in the habit of praying, make your first prayers to God to bring joy into your heart when you pray, so that you can come to God with joy, not merely out of obligation.
Every day, the prayer team message ends with some words of prayer. Sometimes they come from Scripture, sometimes from hymns, and sometimes from my heart. Prayer ideally involves all three.
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint. Lead Thou me to the rock that is higher than I; for Thou art my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in Thy tent forever! Oh to be safe under the shelter of Thy wings! Psalm 61:1-4
Write down some goals for prayer for 2018!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Crosswalk
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