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
Do, Thou, O Lord, protect us, guide us ever from this generation. Psalm 12:7
Good morning Prayer Team!
Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.
If you did/do as I suggested in the last reflection and fill in the blank on how you plan to give worthy thanks to the Lord, you are going to need more than just words on a paper or in your mind. You’ll need some inner resolve. And you are going to need some help, from God.
There is a story about a monastery that was just outside a large city. One of the monks in the monastery asked his abbot if he could go out into the city for a day in order to find some demons. His abbot gave him leave. So the monk went out into the city and looked around everywhere trying to find a demon. He searched the streets, the stores, and the crowds of people and couldn’t find even one. Finally he saw one demon sleeping under a tree in the park. So he walked back to the monastery. As he neared the monastery gates, he saw hundreds of demons climbing up the walls of the monastery, into the windows and on the gates of the monastery. He said to the abbot, “I went all over the large city and found but one demon and he was sleeping under a tree. Then I came back to our small monastery, where we are a few monks praying together and the demons are all over here.” The abbot replied “In the big city, where the people are distracted and there is so much to do, the demons have no work to do. But here, in the small monastery, where we try to live a life of prayer, they attack us relentlessly.”
So, “having partaken of the divine, holy, pure, immortal, heavenly, life-giving and awesome mysteries of Christ,” there isn’t an army of angels waiting outside the church to celebrate with us or to be happy for us. Quite the opposite. It is the devil who is not happy that we came to church, who does not want us to give thanks to God, and who doesn’t want the experience of worship to change us for the good. He lurks outside in subtle ways, ever seeking to distract and disturb our hearts and our lives.
Therefore, immediately after calling on us to “worthily give thanks to the Lord”, the very next line of the Liturgy calls upon the Lord to “Help us, save us, have mercy on us and protect us” by the grace that comes only from Him. Because the Church knows (and God knows) that it is hard to be a Christian. It is hard to maintain the momentum and good feelings that we get from the Divine Liturgy. So, we offer a petition that we have already offered several times in the service. And now following Holy Communion, having received “His Divine Grace and gift of the Holy Spirit,” (an earlier petition), we ask for God’s protection and help to maintain what we have prayed for and what we have received until we gather again.
From a practical perspective, as you hear this petition again, don’t gloss over it, or tune it out because it is repetitive. After making your “plan” to “worthily give thanks to the Lord” ask God to help, safeguard and protect your work toward this plan. Additionally, now that we have received His mercies, this is a prayer for us to continue to receive them throughout the week, long after the service has ended. Because we are in a continuous state of preparing for Holy Communion or thanking God for this gift, we should be continuously asking for His help, safekeeping, mercy, and protection to preserve our faith and to grow it.
Lord, Master, the Father of mercies and God of every consolation, bless, sanctify, guard, fortify and strengthen those who have bowed their heads to You. Distance them from every evil deed. Lead them to every good work and make them worthy to partake without condemnation of these, Your most pure and life-giving Mysteries, for the forgiveness of sins and for the communion of the Holy Spirit. By the grace, mercy and love for us of Your only-begotten Son, with whom You are blessed, together with Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil)
Remember to ask for help, safekeeping, mercy and protection in your prayers today!
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