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
Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. James 5:16
Good morning Prayer Team!
Many people struggle with prayer and the saints. Many think we pray TO the saints. Others, especially outside of our faith, say that it is incorrect to pray to the saints, that we go directly to Christ with our prayers, and to Him alone.
Today, I want to address the subject of intercessory prayer. Have you ever asked someone to pray for you? Most of us have done that. If you are sick, or having surgery, or going on a trip or having a bad time, most of us have asked someone to pray for them. Why? Is it fear? Superstition? There is value in many prayers. This is why we read in the Epistle of St. James, that “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” This is why we are told to pray for one another. Or that when a person is sick, they should call the elders of the church to pray with them and anoint them. There is great power in intercessory prayer—that’s why we are instructed to do it.
I have asked others to pray for me—that’s one of the goals of the prayer team. I ask that you pray for me, and I pray for you. I don’t know about you, but I feel strengthened by your prayers. I feel inspired. When I feel alone, I remember that there are many people praying for me, and then I feel not alone. And because I feel encouraged, it is easier to grow in my faith. Will your prayers alone save me if I never pray or live my life with very unchristian habits? No. But your prayers encourage me to pray more and to live my life with more conviction in my Christian walk. And I sincerely thank you for your prayers.
Praying for one another is a big part of the “bearing one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Praying for one another strengthens our relationship with the Lord. And it also strengthens the relationship with one another. How can I be angry with you at 9:00 a.m. if I’ve prayed for you at 7:00 a.m.? It is much more difficult to lose patience with people you pray for. And it is a lot easier to forgive those for whom you pray.
Now, if we can pray for one another, and if we can ask one another to pray for us, why would we not ask the saints, those who have already been “made perfect in the faith” (from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)? If you can ask me, a sinful person, to pray for you, why would you not ask the Virgin Mary, or St. John the Baptist, or your patron saint, to pray for you?
We do not pray TO the saints, but rather we pray THROUGH the saints. The prayers in our church are address to one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, and many times all three. At the end of each prayer, we glorify the Holy Trinity, that’s why we end the prayers with phrases like “For You are our God and to You we give glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.” But in many prayers, before this glorification of God, we offer phrases like “Through the Intercession of the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and of all the saints.”
There are many saints who are connected with various things we do in life. For instance, St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint of travelers. St. Nectarios is the Patron Saint of cancer patients. St. Paraskevi is the Patron Saint of the eyes. So when someone is having eye surgery and they ask me to pray for them, at the end of the prayer, I will ask “for the intercessions of St. Paraskevi and of all the saints.”
The most often heard arguments against intercessory prayer, which come from many outside of our faith, are that we pray to the saints. We don’t. We pray through the saints. And the next argument is WHY do we ask for intercessions of the saints and not go to Christ alone? And my answer to that is, because there is strength in asking for the saints to intercede for us, to join in our prayers with us. And I know that because there is strength in asking others to pray for me, and for us to pray for one another. If we, in our sinfulness, can pray for one another, we should also want to enjoin the saints in our prayers as well. So, let us intercede for one another in our prayers, and let’s bring the saints into the prayers as well.
Lord our God, thank You for all the gifts that you give to us. Thank You for this day and all the possibilities that it will bring. Lord, please help me to know that I’m not alone in my struggles. I pray that Your saints will ever intercede for me. I offer us prayers for (put in names of people you wish to pray for/intercede for). Please Lord, help me to face the challenges of today and to bring glory to You in them. I ask this through the Intercessions of the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, through the Intercessions of the holy angels and archangels, (through the intercessions of the patron saint of your church), (through the intercessions of your patron saint) and of all Your Saints. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have a great day!
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