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.
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Good morning Prayer Team!
We continue our discussion on how to love God by examining the first of three ways we love God—we pray to Him. Prayer is, simply put, communication with God. In order to develop a relationship with anyone, it requires communication. The same is true with God. A pastor I spoke to recently was talking about the difference between knowing about Christ and knowing Christ. There are plenty of people who purport to have a lot of knowledge about Christ. They can recite parables and remember history. But if we are not praying, we may know about Christ but we won’t KNOW Christ.
Let me use an easy example—I know a lot about President Obama. I know when and where he was born. I know a lot about his life. I could write many opinion papers on his policies. But I don’t KNOW President Obama. I’ve never met him, never had a conversation with him.
In order to know Christ, we have to spend time with Him. And among the most important ways to spend time with Him is in prayer. Prayer need not be long, it need not contain flowery language. However, prayer needs to be frequent and needs to be consistent. We should be praying several times each day. When we wake up in the morning, when we go to bed at night, before we eat a meal, before we begin a task. Any time we need God’s help. And any time we feel thankful we should offer thanks to God.
God doesn’t grade our prayers. We shouldn’t worry if we don’t pray with eloquence. Prayer should be from the heart—heartfelt thanks, heartfelt supplication. Prayer should be constant. That doesn’t mean that every minute of every day needs to be on our knees offering words of prayer to God. What it does mean is that prayer should be a priority with the other things that are constant in our life—we are constantly talking, we are constantly eating, we should be constantly invoking the name of the Lord. Even a simple sign of the cross is a prayer—it asks God to bless us, and to bless one another. The sign of the cross is a reminder of the two great commandments we are studying.
Over the years, I have learned to make the sign of the cross first thing in the morning, and to thank God for five things before my feet hit the floor. It is the same at night. I make the sign of the cross as my feet leave the floor for the final time, thanking God for at least five things as I fall asleep. Praying before getting in the car to drive, or as you get out of the car upon arriving at your destination, glorifies God in your travels. Praying to God for wisdom before a conversation, a meeting or a decision put God at the forefront of each.
Prayer should include four elements—Praise of God (Almighty Lord, Heavenly Father), thanksgiving (thanking God for His many blessings), confession/repentance (recalling your sins of the day and asking the Lord help you grow closer to Him) and supplication (asking God for His help for yourself and for others).
Prayer—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I pray daily? Do I pray at a consistent time? Do I struggle with how to pray? Do I only pray when I need something? Do I remember to thank God in prayer?
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What are some ways that you can improve your prayer life? Write down some ways that you can be more consistent in your prayers each day. Write down the times you pray, and the structure of your prayers, so you can make sure that you are praying each day, praying at certain intervals of the day, and that your prayers include praise of God, thanksgiving for his blessings, a prayer of repentance, and supplication for your needs and the needs of others.
Lord, thank You for (list five things for which you are thankful).
Lord, bless (list at least five people for whom you wish to pray).
Lord, I ask for (list five things that you need today—i.e. wisdom, patient, efficiency, stamina, things that you need TODAY). Amen.
I call this prayer the “rule of five” (five things for which I am thankful, five people for whom I wish to pray, and five things I need TODAY, as opposed to tomorrow. Pray the rule of (at least) five today.
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