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 Two
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Most of us have heard the quote:
Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits they become character; watch your character; for it becomes your destiny. (Frank Outlaw)
If words become shape actions, character and destiny, they we have to watch our words. And this is especially true when it comes to talking about prayer. How many times have we used the phrase “say your prayers.” Or “I say my prayers.” The problem with using the word “say” when it relates to prayer is that “saying prayers” sounds an awful lot like checking off the box when it comes to prayer. And prayer is certainly not a “box-checking” exercise.
Lots of us know how to “say prayers” but not how to pray. We know the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps the Jesus Prayer, or a few more written prayers. However, there is a difference between saying prayers and prayer.
From the perspective of the priest, there are so many prayers associated with the Divine Liturgy, not only in the Liturgy but in the preparation of the Gifts, in the Orthros, etc., that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to “pray” them all. I say the words of all the prayers, but I can’t say that I pray them all. Again, this is a lifelong challenge for me, as it probably is for many of you.
When we “say our prayers” before bedtime, it sounds very ritualistic. Like we brush our teeth, make our pit stop (our son’s word for go to the bathroom), say our prayers, and go to bed. Like we can’t go to bed without the prayer, as opposed to we want to speak with God before we sleep.
Prayer is supposed to be “prayed” or “offered.” After all, we don’t “say” words to God, we reverently offer them. If we are going to open our mouths (and our hearts) to Christ, it’s a lot more than just “saying something.” Think about this—we aren’t conversing with a friend or even a family member. We are speaking to the Divine God! We are speaking with our Savior!
One of the things we can do very easily as we begin again to learn about prayer is to change the way we speak about it. Stop using the word “saying” when it comes to prayer, and start using the word “offering” in relationship to prayer.
As an aside, many people use the word “take” when it comes to receiving Holy Communion. Many people say “I’m going to take Communion today.” The word “take” has the connotation of entitlement, i.e. at the end of the day I’m going to take a shower because I’ve earned it. We don’t come to church and say to ourselves, “I’m going to take me some Communion today, I’ve earned it.” Rather, we “receive” Communion as a gift. And as with all gifts, we should receive with gratitude. And gratitude should motivate our behavior after we receive.
In the same way, we don’t “say” our prayers like we “say” our greetings to family members or “say” our complaints when we have them. We “pray” our prayers or we “offer” our prayers, recognizing that the One to Whom we are praying or offering is infinitely greater than us. This thought then will guide our relationship in prayer with God, who is not only friend, but who is Savior, hope, salvation, and so much more.
In the next two reflections, we will examine two of the fundamental Orthodox Prayers—the Lord’s Prayer and the Jesus Prayer. We will examine what makes each prayer beneficial and also point out some pitfalls when we only use these two prayers. And then we will proceed to discuss how to pray more effectively, how to construct prayers, how to pray with others, and most especially what prayer is, in its essence.
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hours of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealing with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen. (Prayer of St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow)
Work on being a “prayer-er” not a “say-er.” Remember that we “pray” or “offer” our prayers!
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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