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
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
He was praying in a certain place, and when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
One of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid was “The Transformers.” In recent years, this cartoon has been made into a series of non-animated movies. The basic gist of this cartoon was that a bunch of cars would transform into warriors and fight one another.
The word “transform” means to change. In the case of this cartoon, there would be a significant change between entities that would become something totally different than what they were.
When one commits to living a Christian life, they commit to a life of transformation. The transformation is from a sinful person to a saintly person, from a life that is self-centered to a life that is Christ-centered, from a life that focuses less on the material and more on the spiritual, and from a life centered on getting things to a live centered around giving things. Ideally, one would be able to look at his or her life over the span of many years and see a person who has been transformed, who has changed in these ways.
There are people who are part of church communities who are not interested in transformation. Rather, they are interested in validation. Like the Pharisee in the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14), we offer prayers of self-congratulations: “God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” It’s not that the works of the Pharisee were not good things, but his prayer of self-congratulations left no room for transformation. There was no awareness or desire to want to be any better in the eyes of God.
In today’s brief Scripture verse, the disciples went to Jesus and asked Him to teach them how to pray. They wanted to transform the way that related to God and Jesus to lead them to change in this area.
In our Christian lives, there should be a continual desire to know Christ on a deeper level, and a continual desire to live more purposefully and with more commitment to Him. If there isn’t, we need to ask ourselves, “Why?”
If we look back at our lives over the span of many years, there should be a continual progression of progress towards Christ and commitment to Him. We should be praying with more fervor, reading the Scriptures with more understanding, worshipping with greater joy, serving others with greater commitment, giving with greater generosity, and living with greater purpose. If we are not doing these things, we need to ask ourselves again, “Why?”
Back to the “Transformers,” in the cartoon, as these cars are driving on the road, no one knows that they are secret warriors. They blend in with everyone else. Do people even know that we are Christians, or do we blend in like everyone else—with our behavior, with our language, etc.?
Despite our exterior appearance—we all have hair, dress in similar fashioner and do similar activities—someone just beneath the surface should be a Christian warrior, ready to transform at a moment’s notice to serve, to help, to love, to worship and to pray.
Do we have this desire? Why or why not?
As we discussed above, there are a lot of people who come to church for validation. They want to be told “You are fine just the way you are.” They are resistant to change.
Part of our commitment to live as Christians is a commitment to change, to be transformed, from the image of what society calls us to be, to the image of who God calls us to be, to the image of what God created us to be.
We were all created in the image and likeness of God. Sin distorts that image. Repentance transforms the image back to what it was. Since we sin continually, we need to repent continually. Transformation should be a continual event in our lives. So don’t just show up to pray or show up to worship. Come with a heart that is open to spiritual transformation. Allow God’s Spirit to work within you to transform you from who you are to who He called you to be.
Saint Paul put it perfectly in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Do not conform but be transformed. Do not be content but be hungry for more of God. And don’t think that you know it all—Ask Christ to teach you even more, to lead to an even deeper understanding of Him.
On a practical level, commit to learning more about the Christian faith—commit to reading the Bible each day. Commit to reading on spiritual book a year. Commit to going to a retreat or a Bible study. Let’s not be content with who we are and what we know. Instead, let us always desire more when it comes to our knowledge and commitment to Christ.
As church communities, let us also not be content with who we are. Let us commit to a more committed level of stewardship and service. Let us commit to a more involved level of worship. Let us advance our parishes from where they are, to be what God has truly called them to be.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exult His name together! I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no want! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life, and covets many days, that he may enjoy good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips form speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursuit it. The eyes of the Lord are towards the righteous, and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalm 34
We all look like just another car on the highway at times in our lives. But seek and allow yourself to be transformed into one of God’s warriors!
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.
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