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 Seven
And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. Matthew 14:23
Good morning Prayer Team!
We all know the externals of prayer. We have already discussed utilizing a prayer rope while praying. Many people also pray in front of icons. We will discuss this more when we discuss the “where” of prayer. We’ll be discussing a lot on the how, when, and where to pray in the upcoming reflections. Today’s reflection is about the need for intentional silence.
Before we can encounter God, there is a necessity for silence and stillness. You might be wondering “it is not silent when we worship,” so does there need to be silence in order to encounter God? There has to be a sense of stillness, or silence, in our minds and hearts in order to encounter God. If one’s mind is clouded with thoughts, or filled with negative emotion, like anger, it will be hard to pray and to encounter God. Even though communal worship is not silent, it does have a certain degree of stillness. We sit or stand in stillness when we worship. When I stand at the altar table, I am not silent, but I am relatively still. I am not running or typing or anything else, other than standing and praying. We will also discuss communal prayer in an upcoming reflection, so we will leave that topic for now, and move to establishing silence with God when we are alone.
It is very difficult to carry on multiple conversations at the same time. Many of us speak about multi-tasking as if it is some kind of virtue. Multi-tasking may be good in a few instances, like cooking while talking on the phone, etc., but in general multi-tasking dilutes our attention from all the tasks we are trying to accomplish, not allowing us to accomplish any of our multiple tasks particularly effectively. This is very true as concerns prayer. You can’t multi-task while praying. An encounter with God happens when we are silent and still. So, in order to pray, we have to learn to be quiet and focus.
Many of us do not know how to talk to God. We know a few rote prayers but not how to create a prayer. To create a prayer, as well as to pray a prayer we know, requires focus and attention. It takes focus to use our creativity for any task, and that includes prayer. In order to focus, we need to be free from distraction. We can’t focus with loud music on. We can’t focus on one task when doing another.
Silence and stillness, the absence of activity and noise, awakens other parts of us, so that we can encounter God. Here is another beautiful quote, on silence, from the bookBeginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom:
This (sense of happiness in prayer) can be reached only if we learn a certain amount of silence. Begin with the silence of the lips, with the silence of the emotions, the silence of the mind, the silence of the body. But it would be a mistake to imagine that we can start at the highest end, with the science of the heart and the mind. We must start by silencing our lips, by silencing our body in the sense of learning to keep still, to let tenseness go, not to fall into daydreaming and slackness, but to use the formula of one of our Russian saints, to be like a violin string, wound in such a way that it can give the right notes, neither wound too much to breaking point, nor too little so that it only buzzes. And from then onwards we must learn to listen to silence, to be absolutely quiet, and we may, more often than we imagine, discover the words of the Book of Revelation come true: “I stand at the door and knock”. (From Beginning to Pray, by Anthony Bloom, p. 94-95)
Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of silence. We reach for our phones, our music, our electronic devices whenever there is silence, and sometimes even when there isn’t. Our “at your fingertips” smartphones, have made us increasingly impatient. Anytime there is a gap of waiting or silence, we’ve got hundreds of apps on the phone to fill the space. We have to retrain ourselves, it seems, to feel comfortable with silence.
The other word to address today is the word “intentional” that I placed purposely before the word silence. In today’s Scripture verse, Jesus went up to the mountain by Himself to pray. He was intentional. He didn’t just go for a walk and waited to see what would happen. He intentionally made a journey to a place where He could have some silence. He purposely made this spiritual retreat. We have to learn to do the same thing by blocking off a portion of the day every day to spend with God.
I’ve written many times about how at summer camp we have a time called “Alone with God,” which is intentionally placed on the daily schedule as a time when all activity stops so people can sit “alone with God.” They can sit in silence and stillness. It’s easy to do at summer camp when this is the activity that everyone is doing. It is more of a challenge when others in life are not doing this, and when the world is not slowing down for some intentional silence.
Reflect on these questions: How much intentional silence do you have in your daily life? Do you find silence awkward or difficult and why?
If you’re not use to silence, try just sitting still for a few minutes. Daydream if needed. Just practice being still and silent. Then sit with an icon of Jesus and reflect on the icon and our Savior depicted in it. Then work on opening your mouth to offer words to Him. It all starts, however, with silence.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and evermore. Psalm 131
Schedule some intentional moments of silence today, and every day!
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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