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 Five
And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do; for you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory.” Exodus 33:17-18
Good morning Prayer Team!
Moses is one of the biblical figures that many of us can relate to. God calls him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses doubts both God’s plans and his ability to execute them. He goes to Pharaoh and demands the people be set free, and when Pharaoh rebuffs him, his self-confidence dips and he laments to God. God gives him power to work signs through plagues, and eventually the people are set free. When Moses arrives at the Red Sea, again he laments being pursued by Pharaoh and his armies and again God comes through and parts the sea. The Israelites journey in the desert for forty years. It is a time of small triumphs and great tribulations and slow progress among the people. One day, Moses, exasperated, cries out to the Lord, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory.” (Exodus 33:18) He begs God for the profound connection that will inspire confidence in him and the people he is leading on a daily basis, through the mundane, the difficult and even the good.
“Someone teach me how to pray” is the cry of lots of Christians. Like Moses, we find ourselves exasperated by the challenges of life. We see a deep connection with God through prayer which seems forever elusive. Even people with a robust prayer life sometimes don’t connect with God except in moments that are few and far between.
Last summer, I went on a long hike with my family in Sequoia National Park in California. We wanted to see a beautiful waterfall that was several miles up the trail. The trail to the falls was steep and long. The day was hot. It took us almost two hours to reach the waterfall. It was beautiful. Even more beautiful than advertised. We didn’t judge how long the hike would take us, and so we didn’t have much food with us. We knew it was probably a two hour hike back, so we didn’t stay at the waterfall more than about 30 minutes before turning around to go back. My point is that it took us four hours to experience 30 minutes of the beauty of this waterfall.
In some ways, connecting with God through prayer is a lot like this hike. We may pray and pray and pray and yet feel a profound connection just a small percentage of the time. I remember once confessing to my Spiritual Father that my mind wanders during the Liturgy, that I’m not focused on prayer all of the time. He told me that his mind wanders also, and that it’s a good thing that we priests are worshipping for 2-3 hours at a time, since we may feel a connection only for a few precious minutes. He told me that is why when we were only worshipping for a few minutes, we might not feel any connection at all. Because it takes time to put aside distractions from our thoughts. Prayer is the same way. A profound connection with God takes time, practice, and commitment.
Most of us were taught the “externals” of prayer—we were taught to set up icons in our homes and offices, how to make the sign of the cross, the words of the Lord’s Prayer. We were not taught really how to pray or the importance of making a connection with the Lord. In fact, many of were taught that prayer is “giving the Lord His due,” rather than our connection with Him. Therefore, we prayed out of obligation, rather than out of joy. We prayed out of compulsion rather than for connection. Consequently, our understanding of prayer for many of us has not matured. We brought a rudimentary understanding from childhood into adulthood.
As we continue in our study of the meaning of prayer, it is important to mention that the first step in building a good prayer life and therefore a solid connection with God is our desire to do so. Moses desired to see God’s’ glory, to experience a deep connection with God. When God asked Moses what he wanted, he asked God to show Moses His glory. Imagine if God asked each of us what we wanted, would our answer be the same as the one Moses gave? Making a connection with God a desired goal will motivate us develop a more meaningful prayer life. And a more meaningful prayer life will allow us to experience God’s glory in our lives today.
I give Thee thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing Thy praise; I bow down toward Thy holy temple and give thanks to Thy name for Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness; for Thou hast exalted above everything Thy name and Thy word. On the day I called, Thou didst answer me, my strength of soul Thou didst increase. All the kings of the earth shall praise Thee, O Lord, for they have heard the words of Thy mouth’; and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly; but the haughty He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou dost preserve my life; Thou dost stretch out Thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Thy right hand delivers e. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Thy steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Thy hands. Psalm 138
Making and maintaining a profound connection with God is hard. In the coming reflections we’ll study how it can be made easier. This profound connection is what most of us want. It need not elude us. Like our hike in the mountains, if we put in the work, we will get the reward.
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.
Photo Credit: Eastern Giftshop
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