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
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 Sixteen
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayer, intercession and thanksgivings be made for all men. I Timothy 2: 1-3
Good morning Prayer Team!
When my son was in elementary school, each week he would be given a list of vocabulary words to memorize, both their spelling and their meaning. As part of his study, he would have to write a paragraph using all ten of the vocabulary words. This was a good exercise in that it required him to be creative, to weave the ten non-related words into a paragraph. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to efficiency. My son would try to work all ten words into one sentence, which was generally impossible, but he gave a good effort and usually got them all into three sentences.
One day, when I was meeting with a group of people at church who were bemoaning the fact that they didn’t know how to pray, I ask everyone to take out a sheet of paper. I asked the group to throw out ten random words, and got answers like “Pizza”, “rocket”, “television,” “couch,” “friends,” “house,” “potato” “carpet”, “blue” and “picture.” I asked them to try to put all then of these unrelated words into a story. One very smart person got all ten into one sentence: “This picture on my phone is from the other day when I was at my house with some friends, sitting on my blue couch with our feet on the carpet watching a movie about the moon rocket on television while eating pizzaand potato chips.”
I then asked the teachers to find ten words to use in prayer, and I got answers like “Thank you,” “help,” “health,” “family,” “marriage,” “peace,” “wisdom,” “faith,” “trust,” and “confidence.” After everyone wrote down the words, I asked if someone would like to construct a prayer out of these ten words, the same way that we had constructed a story out of the other ten. Someone worked up the courage to pray: “Dear God, thank You for your many blessings. Thank You for my family. Help me to honor You today. Bless my marriage. Help me to bring peace into the world. Give me wisdom to make good decisions. Help me to trust in You and to have the confidence to continue to grow in my faith. Keep me in health and safety. Amen.” Prayer is speaking to God, putting together words to offer to Him. This prayer is not any less beautiful because it was put together on the spur of the moment. If we can take ten random words and create a story, we can certain take ten random (or related) words and offer a prayer.
Going back to constructing a prayer, after praise and thanksgiving, we should offer a few words of repentance and intercession. Why repentance? Repentance serves two purposes. First, in repenting, we own up to our sins. And second, we pledge to do better, to live more in alignment with how God wants us to live. In repenting, we acknowledge that we are not perfect and we commit to working harder to live a holy and Godly life. It is important on a daily basis to ask God for forgiveness. Again, this is something that most people are not doing.
Now there are plenty of people who will make the argument that if we are asking God for forgiveness on a daily basis, why would we need to go to confession, the argument of “I confess to God, why do I need to confess to a priest?” Of course, in the sacrament of confession, the confession is made to the Lord in the presence of a priest. The purpose of the priest is to provide guidance and also offer the Prayer of Absolution. We may choose to live healthy on a daily basis, eating right and exercising, but we should still go do a doctor once a year to formalize our health and submit to testing. Likewise, at least once a year we should go for confession, as a way to formalize our repentance and receive the gift of absolution.
Regarding interceding, there are two ways we use intercession in prayer. First, we ask the saints to intercede for us. Second, we intercede for one another. Intercession means that we ask others to do something for us. For instance, if I need a favor from John, and I don’t know John but I know John’s son, Michael, I may go to Michael and ask him to ask John the favor that I need, reasoning that he knows John better than I do. John ultimately grants the favor, I use Michael as an intercessor. We use the saints in this way. Ultimately our prayers are to the Lord, not to the saints. However, we ask the Virgin Mary, the saints and the angels to intercede with God on our behalf, reasoning that they know Him better than we do.
For those who don’t understand the intercessions of the saints, we all understand the intercessions of others. When we are sick or scared or facing some crisis, most of us have asked others to pray for us. If we can ask one another, why can’t we ask the saints?
We should pray for one another, and in our daily prayers, we should have a list, either written out, or in our minds, of people we would like to remember in prayer. We can mention our family members, our friends, our priest, those who serve us (doctors, teachers, etc.), people we know who are in need of prayer, and pray in general for categories of people—soldiers, those who are sick, first responders, etc. We will discuss “supplication” in the next reflection, because certainly supplication is an important part of prayer. But before we get to our personal needs, we should be in the habit of praising and thanking God, asking for His forgiveness and offering our repentance, as well as interceding for others and asking the saints to intercede for us.
Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock why Thy right hand planted. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; ay they perish at the rebuke of Thy countenance! But let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, the son of man whom Thou hast made strong for Thyself! Then we will never turn back from Thee; give us life, and we will call on Thy name! Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let Thy face shine, that we may be saved! Psalm 80:14-19
Make repentance and intercession part of your daily prayers!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now
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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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