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.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Lord is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or ruled. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. I Corinthians 13: 4-8
Good morning Prayer Team!
The first word that St. Paul uses when describing love in I Corinthians 13 is the word “patient.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that love is easy. In fact, nothing worthwhile in life is easy. Whether we are talking about our relationship with the Lord or with one another, we won’t get far in either without patience.
In a book I recently read called “Rediscover Jesus” by Matthew Kelly (a Catholic author), the number one reason he gave for people not reading the Bible is lack of patience. I’d actually never thought about the word “patience” as relating to the Bible. In our fast-paced society where nothing holds our attention for long, we lack the patience to read the Bible, to read it slowly, to read it repeatedly, to let it speak to us. The Bible, says Kelly, is not a self-help book, but a book that we read to get to know the heart of God, as well as our own heart. This takes time. This takes patience.
Something else that requires patience is waiting for prayers to be answered. Many of us see prayer as a vending machine—we insert a request and expect it to be answered right away. Prayer doesn’t work like that. Christ does not work like that. There is no question that Christ has a plan for every human life. The challenge is to wait patiently for that plan to unfold, and to allow God’s plan to unfold, even if it doesn’t seem to match our plan for ourselves.
Patience, along with forgiveness, are keys to making lasting human relationships. If I see someone for one hundred days, some of those days will be great, some will be bad and some will be mundane. In the span of one hundred days, not all will classify as good. So, how then do we deal with the bad days and the mundane days? If I said “you’re fired” or “I never want to see you again” each time I thought it, I would have no friends. I’m sure there are people who would love to say these things to me as well. The only way we make it in human relationships is with the patience to see through the tough times. That’s what it means to love our neighbor—to do it when it is easy, and to do it when it is hard. That’s patience—to continue to love even on the bad days.
And when you think about it, this is how God loves us. He loves on the good days and He still loves us on the bad days. Salvation is on the table for each of us on the worst day, the same as it is on the best day. At the heart of loving God and loving one another is patience. It is not ease, or convenience, or even efficiency. Love is, first and foremost, patient.
Patience (from a spiritual perspective)—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I stay patient with God and consistent in my Christian journey at all times, even bad ones? Do I ask in prayer for God’s will to be done in my life, or am I always making specific requests? Do I exercise patience when things don’t go my way? Do I read the Bible consistently?
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When you pray, ask God to reveal His will to you in ways that are specific, concrete and obvious. Try to stay away from the “vending machine” model of prayer and ask God to give you patience and discernment in revealing His will to you.
Patience (from a relationship perspective)—Am I patient with others? Am I moody or even-keel? Do I always insist on my own way? Do I write off people too easily? Do I flip out on people too easily?
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Consider the consequences before speaking to people in intense situations. When you get angry, count to ten before you speak. As yourself if what you are upset about is really worth getting upset about. Will it matter in a day, a week or a month?
Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications. . .Teach me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul. . .Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. Let Your good spirit lead me on a level path. Amen. (Psalm 143: 1, 8, 10)
Make a point of listening more than you talk, and always thinking before you speak.
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