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.
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Commitment is a tough concept, but also a rewarding one. When we commit to eating healthy and exercising, as an example, we feel physically better. We move easier, we feel more relaxed, and this affects our work, our relationships, and our life overall. A healthy lifestyle is just better. It’s the commitment part that is hard. Most, if not all, of us have gone through unhealthy periods. We don’t think about what we are eating, we don’t exercise, and then we don’t feel good. Then we recommit and we feel better.
It’s probably fair to say that the Christian life mirrors this for many people. They commit, go strong, then go stagnant, then recommit and the cycle continues. The key is to stay in the commitment cycle and be around people who will encourage you to stay committed.
The key commitment in the Christian life is to pray. Prayer and worship are the two things that connect us most to the Lord. So whether it is commitment to pray privately or worship corporately, it is vital to our Christian life that we do these two things in a very committed way.
Whatever things we are committed to, we find time for them. We write them in the schedule. For instance, this year, (and for the past few) our son has been committed to swimming. He swims several days a week for a couple of hours at a time. Because of this, lots of things have to fit around swimming, or perhaps better said, swimming fits around lots of things. Swimming doesn’t come before school and homework. It doesn’t come before church. It certainly doesn’t come before God. But it is a commitment. Much of our schedule revolves around swimming. Homework has to be done, meals eaten, hygiene kept up, and he still has to go to bed at a decent hour. There isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t thinking about swimming in our house.
Life is supposed to revolve around prayer, not the other way around. Many people try to figure out how to get prayer somehow into their life. They book every moment and every thought with something and thoughts of God and time with Him gets squeezed out. It’s not supposed to be that way. We are supposed to give Him the first fruits. The first thing on our calendars should be time with God, privately in prayer and corporately in worship. Going a day without prayer should not be an option. Going a Sunday without worship should be the same. Not because we are “checking a box” or feeling some sort of obligation that will riddle us with guilt if we don’t do it. But because it is a sign of our identity as Christians and because it brings us joy. Our son is a swimmer—many days he likes going and some days he doesn’t but goes anyway, because that’s part of his identity.
It’s the same thing with any other kind of commitment we have in life—commitment to exercise, commitment to marriage, commitment to raising children, commitment to a job—whatever commitments we have, we show up for them on a daily basis, whether we want to or not, because the things we are committed to are part of our identity.
We are Christians. We are children of God. That’s who we are. That’s what God created us to be. Do we see this as our identity? If we do not, why not? And if we do, what kind of relationship have we committed to build with God, our Father?
We discussed in the last reflection that our personal participation in the life of the church begins with desire and commitment. The first desire and the first commitment is one to pray, to worship, to be with God in these intimate settings. It would be hard to commit to serving God in a sacrificial way if we do not find joy in simply being with God.
There is no commitment where one makes a “once for all time” statement of commitment. Yes, a wedding is a one-time ceremony that kicks off a marriage. But one must renew the commitment on a daily basis. We reaffirm our commitments to our children on a daily basis, when we help them, encourage them and give affection to them.
There is no once for all time statement of commitment when it comes to our relationship with God. This is why we reaffirm our commitment on a daily basis through prayer, on a weekly basis through worship, on a frequent basis through Holy Communion, and also through the sacrament of confession.
There is no doubt that commitments take effort. So commit to pray, today. And tomorrow, commit to pray tomorrow. And next Sunday, commit from now to worship and receive Holy Communion.
I call upon Thee, O Lord; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice, when I call to Thee! Let my prayer be counted as incense before Thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice! Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips! Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity; and let me not eat of their dainties! Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness, but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head; for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds. When they are given over to those who shall condemn them, then they shall learn the word of the Lord is true. As a rock which one cleaves and shatters on the land, so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol. But my eyes are toward Thee, O Lord God; in Thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers! Let the wicked together fall into their own nets, while I escape. Psalm 141
Daily commitments to pray, weekly commitments to worship, and frequent recommitments in confession will set us up to live a committed life in Christ!
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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