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 One
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Many of us are familiar with the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It is about two shyster weavers who promise to make the emperor clothes that are invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent at their positions. When the weavers dress the emperor in his new clothes, that are literally no clothes at all, no one says anything lest they be thought of as stupid or incompetent. Finally a child cries that the emperor isn’t wearing anything at all.
Like the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” there is a sad fact in the lives of most Orthodox Christians that most of us would rather not talk about, for fear that we’d be seen as stupid or incompetent, and that fact is that most of us don’t know how to pray. And consequently, many Orthodox Christians do not pray at all, and for those who do pray, beyond “The Lord’s Prayer”, many of us do not know how to offer any other prayer.
Despite many books that have been written on the subject of prayer, there is still a lot of confusion on prayer. Many people are still wondering “What do I do when I’m praying? What do I do with that time?” People are afraid to ask questions about prayer, especially as they get older, because they think they should know this by now. We feel awkward asking questions about something we think we should know, and we don’t want to look silly asking a rudimentary question. While prayer may seem basic, and perhaps reflections on prayer may seem like a waste of time, the truth is, there are many people who do not know how to pray at all.
There are two things in my experience as an Orthodox priest that I want to discuss with you in the coming weeks. The first thing is that if I’m in a group and ask someone to offer a prayer, most people will say “well, you are the priest, you are the one who prays.” Most people feel very uncomfortable praying in public, and many of us feel uncomfortable praying alone. If I’m not at an event, but someone wants to open an event with prayer, it is the Lord’s Prayer that will be offered and most likely, nothing else. Praying with someone else is also seen as foreign to Orthodoxy in most pockets. Anytime prayer is done in public, it is done only by the priest. In the coming weeks we’ll discuss why this is not correct, that it is not only the priest that can pray with others.
The second thing that I would like to discuss is that I’ve had a life long struggle with praying. Yes, even though I’ve been a priest for twenty years, prayer is still not something I have mastered, not by a long shot. I would venture to say that almost everyone struggles with the “how,” and “when”, the “how long” and the “what” of prayer. There are some who maybe don’t even know why we pray. And we’ve all been disappointed and struggle with the question of “why do certain prayers seem to go unanswered?”
I personally do not struggle with the “why” of prayer. I know why we pray. I do not struggle with the “what of prayer.” I know what to pray when I put a prayer together. In recent years, I’ve even gotten better at constructing prayers with my own words and not just relying on a prayer book. The “how” to construct a good prayer life and the “when” to offer prayer consistently every day still elude me. I put this out here so that if you never learned how to pray, or if you are still struggling with aspects of prayer, to let you know that you are not alone. I’ve been a priest for twenty years and I still struggle with this. And I guarantee I’m not the only one. If we priests are struggling, it is not surprising that many laypeople struggle with praying as well.
Over the next many reflections we will be discussing the concept of prayer, which is the original reason the Prayer Team was created, to encourage people to pray. Prayer is supposed to be the primary work of every disciple. Sadly, prayer seems to be the primary struggle for every disciple. Again, if you struggle with prayer, you are not alone. It is hoped that after several reflections on prayer in the coming weeks, we all (myself included) will have not only a greater understanding of the nuts and bolts of prayer but will approach prayer with a greater sense of purpose, and most of all, a greater sense of joy.
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who have raised us from our beds and gathered us together for this hour of prayer, give us grace by the openings of our mouths and accept our thanksgivings, in the measure of our ability. Teach us Your statutes, because we do not know how to pray as we ought, unless You, Lord, guide us by Your Holy Spirit. Therefore, we beg You, if we have sinned in any way until the present hour in word or deed or by thought, voluntarily or involuntarily, remit, forgive, pardon. For if You should regard iniquities, Lord; Lord, who will stand? For there is redemption from You. You alone are holy, a helper, a mighty defender of our life and in You is our praise at all times. Blessed and glorified be the might of Your Kingdom, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (7th Prayer of Orthros, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Don’t worry if you haven’t mastered prayer yet. We all still have a lot to learn about prayer!
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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