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
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
And the Lord said to Elijah, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” 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!
It is no coincidence that the day has twenty-four hours. Twenty-four divided by three is eight. If you ask a doctor what is the ideal amount of sleep that we should get each night, the doctor will tell you roughly eight hours. For many years, the work day was eight hours. Which left eight hours for taking care of a family, for hobbies and for spirituality. Somewhere in that eight hours, there could be a time for reading and for silent prayer. Also, for the majority of Christian history, there was not electricity, so there was not the distraction of television, computers and now phones. For the majority of Christian history, there were no cars either. Society was not as mobile, people didn’t stay out late.
Today we are a society on the go. We are constantly stimulated. We wake up with alarms, click on music while getting dressed, check in with our social media while brushing our teeth. We text while driving, people slip ear buds in their ears to listen to music at work. The bright lights of our cities don’t allow us to see the stars. And being surrounded by man-made buildings and things, we lose sight of our place in the universe.
We are not comfortable with silence.
Like Elijah, however, God is found in silence. The Nativity was revealed to quiet shepherds in the countryside. The town of Bethlehem somehow missed the multitude of angels singing. There is no coincidence there. A multitude of angels would probably go unnoticed over any city today. Going back to the example of Elijah, it wasn’t the strong wind, or the breaking piece of rocks, the earth or the fire that revealed God. It was a still, small voice.
It is said that when we talk too much, we cannot be good listeners. When we are too noisy, we will miss out on the things of God. I can honestly say that I have felt God’s presence most profoundly when I’m still. Not necessarily silent, but still. I feel Him in nature, when I pause to enjoy something beautiful in creation, like a river, the waves of the ocean, or even dew glistening on the grass in the morning. I feel His presence when I’m praying, especially with people. In the moments of prayer, when movement stops, this is when I feel God. I don’t feel God’s presence when I’m driving in rush hour traffic. I don’t feel His presence when I’m running late. I don’t feel His presence when I’m loud or angry. I feel His presence when I’m still.
It is imperative that we take time every day to be still, to pray, to read Scripture, and to meditate on the things of God. I’m not talking chants and incantations, but silent time to sit alone with God, to talk with Him in prayer, but also to sit and let Him speak to your heart. We can’t keep cheating on sleep and think we will stay healthy. We can’t keep cheating on family and think we will have one. We can’t keep cheating at work, checking our social media and not focusing, and think we can be productive. And we can’t not make time to sit quietly with God and think we will ever hear His voice.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and form, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter, he utters his voice, the earth melts. The lord of hosts is with us; the god of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how He has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, He burns the chariots with fire! “Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations. I am exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46)
Spend five minutes in silence today!
Photo credit: JP II Cultural Center
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