Listening:  The Forgotten Element of Prayer

Listening: The Forgotten Element of Prayer

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Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.

ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19-20

Prayer: Abiding in God’s Love—Part Eighteen

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.  I Kings 19: 11-12

Good morning Prayer Team!

What kind of a relationship would you have with someone if you talked all the time you were together and never let them get a word in?  Relationships like this don’t last more than one conversation!

There is an element of prayer that many people don’t consider.  We know that prayer involves us speaking with the Lord.  However, just as in any good relationship, there has to be a listening component to prayer, and this involves reading the Scriptures.  As we set aside time to pray to God, part of that time should be spent reading the Scriptures, listening to God. 

There are several ways to read the scriptures.  One can subscribe to the daily readings provided by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (www.goarch.org).  There is a prescribed reading from the Epistles and Gospels each day of the year (during Lent, the readings are from the Old Testament).  Another way is to just pick a random page and read.  You can, of course, read the Bible from cover to cover.  If you’ve never read the Bible, start by reading the Gospels, then the book of Acts, then the Epistles, and then go to the Old Testament. 

The thing that I personally have found most helpful in recent years is “sitting with Scripture.”  Instead of devouring chapters of scripture, choose a few verses, like we do with the prayer team, and “sit” with them.  Meditate on them.  Write down what comes to mind as you pray on them. 

Many of us are familiar with an exercise called “word association.”  We hear a word and then write down the first thing that comes to mind.  For instance, if the word “dog” was given to one hundred people, it might produce one hundred different answers.  Some might include “bone” or “food” or “fluffy” or “Snoopy” (for those who like Peanuts cartoons) or “dirty” or “fear” (for those who don’t like dogs).  The point is the same word could elicit many different responses. 

Scripture works in the same way.  God speaks to us through Scripture.  He speaks to each of us differently, perhaps even from the same passage.  As an example, I sat with today’s verse for a few minutes and here are some of the thoughts that went through my head:

“The small still voice, very hard to hear, very hard to understand, must turn off loud noises and distractions in order to hear the voice.  But even when I turn off the distractions, I’m still struggling to hear God’s voice.  Lord, why can’t your voice be louder.  Lord, make Your will more obvious in my life.  I am very distracted.  I need to start minimizing distractions.  What are some of my distractions?  I need to be more intentional in my prayer life, need to make more time for intentional silence.  Lord, help me to embrace silence.  Help me to hear Your voice.” 

Again, these are my thoughts as I reflect on these verses.  There are an infinite number of possibilities of thoughts that can come when we “sit with scripture.”  If you journal, I encourage you to start a journal on the thoughts you get when you sit with scripture.  Do this for a few months or a year and you’ll have the best book ever written, a book of God’s thoughts written by you, a book filled with your thoughts on God’s words. 

We don’t have to read many verses, or sit with scripture for more than five minutes (of course you can), but spend five minutes with one Scripture passage.  Reflect, and if you wish, write down thoughts that come to your mind.  Today’s prayer is from the Divine Liturgy, and it is a prayer to offer before reading Scripture, to help clear our minds as we sit and “listen” to God. 

Shine in our hearts, O Master Who loves mankind, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind that we may comprehend the proclamations of Your Gospels.  Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having trampled down all carnal desires, we may lead a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all those things that are pleasing to You.  For You, Christ our God, are the illumination of our souls and bodies, and to You we offer up glory, together with  Your Father, Who is without beginning and Your all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.  Amen. (Prayer before the Gospel Reading, from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press, 2015)

Don’t forget to pray today!  Don’t forget to include listening to God (sitting with Scripture) in your prayer today.  Because we not only need to speak with God, we need to listen to Him as well.

 

+Fr. Stavros

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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.

 

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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.”