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.”
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 Fifteen
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! Say also: “Deliver us, O God of our salvation, and gather and save us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to Thy holy name, and glory in Thy praise. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the Lord. I Chronicles 16: 34-36
Good morning Prayer Team!
For the next several reflections, we’ll turn our attention to the structure of prayer, how to construct a prayer. First a few words of introduction. Many people think of prayer as a vending machine, where they insert their wish and it is answered. There are several things wrong with this image of prayer. The person praying will quickly become disappointed and frustrated with the experience of prayer because prayers are not answered immediately or in the way we hope necessarily. (More on this in a future reflection) Also, to pray this way deprives us of a relationship with God. Imagine the kind of relationship we would have with someone if all we ever did was ask them for things. If we only pray in this way, prayer will become awkward quickly, because after making our request, we’ve run out of things to say. We pray for a couple of things and then we are lost.
One more note before we discuss how to construct a prayer goes back to a previous statement that cannot be stated enough—God does not grade our prayers. Also, prayer isn’t some form of magic or a formula that we have to get in the right order for it to work. Going back to the discussion of praying with a book versus praying from the heart, some prayer books tell the reader to pray “Lord, have mercy” 12 times or 40 times, depending on the prayer. If one prays “Lord, have mercy” and is just counting on his fingers as he “prays” he is not really accomplishing much but counting.
So, now to the structure of prayer. Each prayer must have a beginning. Prayer generally begins with an acknowledgement of Who we are praying to. Some people offer simply “Dear God,” or “Lord.” This is an acknowledgement that the One to Whom we are praying is sovereign over us. Other examples of how to pray include “Almighty God,” or “Heavenly Father,” or “Lord, Jesus Christ.”
When the Disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He told them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, beginning with the words “Our Father.” This denotes an intimate relationship between a Father (God) and His children (us). Most people we call by their names, or we use “Mr.” or “Mrs.” and their last name. It is only our parents that we call “mom” or “dad”. This denotes the special and intimate relationship we enjoy with them. It is the same with God. We begin our prayer by using an intimate name—God, Lord, Savior, Christ—to denote that this communication, prayer, is unlike any other communication we engage in.
Asking God for something in prayer is called “supplication.” As stated above, many skip right to the supplication part of the prayer. There are certainly other elements to prayer besides supplication. These include praise, thanksgiving, repentance, intercession and listening, in addition to supplication.
It is best to begin prayer with praise and thanksgiving, acknowledging God before just going to our specific needs. Is there a difference between praise and thanksgiving? There is. Praise is thanking God for Who He is. Thanksgiving is thanking God for what He’s done in our lives.
A “word of praise” could be something like “Heavenly King, author of all creation,” or “Dear Lord, Creator and Ruler of all things.” It could include the word “praise”, like “Dear Lord, I praise You for Your great goodness.”
After “praise” we should offer thanksgiving. This is thanking God for what He’s done for us. Most of us go right to intercession and supplication. We go directly to what we want, instead of what we are thankful for. So, after “praise” continue by thanking God for your life. One way I encourage people to pray is with a “rule of 5.” Begin prayer by telling God five things for which you are thankful. On most days, before I get out of bed, in prayer I offer “Thank You God that I am alive. Thank You God for my wife. Thank You God for our son. Thank You God for the roof that is over my head. And thank You God that I have a place to go today.” It takes mere seconds to offer thanks to God, but it is an acknowledgement that I am grateful and humbled for His blessings. There are plenty of people who won’t wake up today in the world, plenty who are not married or who do not have children, or who don’t have a roof over their heads. There are plenty of people who don’t have a place to go, a job, friends, etc. Every morning, thanking God in prayer is a great way to acknowledge blessings.
Many times when I pray with parishioners, I begin by offering either “Thank You God for the privilege of praying to You today,” or “Thank You God for Your many blessings.”
Thanksgiving is also a great way to fend off jealousy and envy. Only after beginning with praise and thanksgiving, can we move on to God to ask for other things.
I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou has drawn me up, and hast not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to Thee for help, and Thou hast healed me. O Lord, Thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life among those gone down to the Pit. Sing Praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His Holy Name. Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By Thy favor, O Lord, Thou hadst established me as a strong mountain; Thou didst hide Thy face, I was dismayed. To Thee, O Lord, I cried; and to the Lord I made supplication: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise Thee? Will it tell of Thy faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me! O Lord, be Thou my helper!” Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may praise Thee and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever. Psalm 30
Praise and thank God in prayer today!
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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