Simple, Private and Sincere

Scriptures of the Triodion

Second Saturday of Souls

Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 6:1

Good morning Prayer Team!

We know that there is both an individual and community aspect to our Christianity.  And along with these two aspects comes a private and public dimension to our Christianity as well.  In the community aspect, we are supposed to be bold in sharing our faith, but not arrogant about it.  We are supposed to witness for our faith without “showing off” about it.  We are supposed to support the work of the church sacrificially and joyfully but not for public recognition.  The Gospel reading on the second Saturday of the Souls reminds us that there is a fine line between zeal and arrogance, between a public showing of faith and a public showing off.

We practice our faith publicly for several reasons:  First, we worship in the context of community, for sharing of the faith, for encouragement, for validation, and for accountability.  We also worship in order to celebrate with others.  Second, we practice our faith publicly because this is how faith is shared.  Nothing can be shared that is kept to ourselves.

The temptation to show off is always there, and sadly in churches, it has been augmented by the practice of public rewards for good deeds.  We permanently memorialize people who give by making donor walls, putting names on icons and pews, pavers and anything else that can hold a name.  People feel that if they buy enough advertising space it will offset other things so that they can get into heaven.

Jesus warns us in the Gospel lesson that we will get no reward from God if our practice of Christianity is done just to be seen by others.  He tells us that when we are “giving alms” and by extension, anything else that we are giving, that we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it in order to be praised by others. (Matthew 6:2-4) Our giving, rather, should be in secret.

There are many people who “pray publicly,” in the sense that they worship in church, but who do not have a private and personal prayer life.  It is crucial to the Christian life that one not only comes to church but also “shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” (Matthew 6:6)  Even the words of prayer need not be long and flowery, so long as they are sincere.  Christ tells us that our prayers are not heard based on their length or complexity, but on the humility with which they are offered.

And then Jesus offers to us the prayer par excellence, the Lord’s Prayer.  Entire books have been written on the Lord’s Prayer.  But a few highlights from the prayer include:

Our Father-The two Great Commandments, love God and love neighbor are summarized in two words.  Our reminds us that we are in this together with our neighbors, and Father establishes our relationship with God.  He is our Father.  We are to love and respect Him as our Father.

Who art in heaven reminds us that He is our Creator.

Hallowed be Thy name reminds us of the Great Commission, that we should keep God’s name Holy in our minds and with our mouths, to spread the Gospel to all nations.

Thy Kingdom come reminds us of our ultimate goal in life, the attainment of salvation.

Thy will be done reminds us of our work today, which is to glorify God.

On earth as it is in heaven reminds us to live in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven, to practice being a Godly person today, with the hope that life on earth one day becomes life in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread asks the Lord to give us what we need today, to give us wisdom, stamina, patience, sustenance and sufficiency, the needs of today.

And forgive us our trespasses recognizes our shortcomings and asks the Lord to forgive them.

As we forgive those who trespass against us reminds us that we are to forgive one another, and holds us accountable that God will forgive us in the way we forgive one another.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil reminds us that it is not God who leads us astray.  We need to be vigilant against temptation, asking the Lord to lead us away from evil.

For Thine is the Kingdom and the power the glory, forever. Amen.  Every prayer finishes with a statement of God’s glory, and this prayer is no different.  It reminds us that the Kingdom of heaven is the Lord’s, as is the decision of who will get into the Kingdom.  And the Kingdom is forever—He created it, He created it for us to inherit, and His intention is for us to be in the Kingdom forever.

So, when it comes to Christianity, remember to strike a balance between public witness and public display.  Remember to not only worship in church but to pray privately.  And remember it is not how much we offer but how we offer what we offer.  When we offer with sincerity and humility, the Lord rewards with His glory.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.

Simple, private, sincere, humble—this is how to pray, this is how to live, this is how we glorify God and witness for Him!

 

+Fr. Stavros

Photo credit: Generation Now

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Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John…
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