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.”
Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:18
Good morning Prayer Team!
Going back to the basics this week, today’s reflection addresses a simple but very important question—What is prayer? If we are supposed to be praying daily, what exactly is it that we are doing?
Prayer, most simply put, is communication with God. And like communication with other people, prayer can take on different tones—we can come to God with thanksgiving, with joy, with humility and contrition, with sorrow, with need and even with disappointment.
I remember an encounter I had with someone over fifteen years ago who told me that she stopped praying because she was angry with God about some disappointment. I asked her why she didn’t take that disappointment to God in prayer. She said that she didn’t think we were “allowed” to be angry at God. I asked her, “do you ever get angry with your parents or siblings or friends?” She said “all the time, but we work through it and move on.” And I said, “don’t you think the same thing can work in your relationship with God?” She said, “I never thought about it that way.” And frankly, I never had either. That is the day I realized that prayer is communication with God, going to Him with anything and everything. The young person to whom I was speaking then got on her knees and screamed at God in frustration and after a few minutes, broke down in tears saying she didn’t want to be mad at God anymore and wanted to resume the relationship with joy once again.
Prayer is where we communicate to God by speaking to Him. It is often said, even by me, that we talk to God in prayer, and then He talks to us in Scripture. Which is why it is important and essential that we all read the Scriptures. But God also speaks to us in prayer. When I am fervently praying, God puts thoughts in my mind that were not there before I began praying. When I’m struggling to find words or ideas, when I ask the Lord to fill my head with words and ideas, the answers often come WHILE I’m praying. So, in prayer, we not only are speaking, but if you “listen” while praying, you will many times hear God speaking to you, through the thoughts He puts in your head and into your heart and the moment you are praying.
To give you a concrete example—many times I am praying for people who are sick or in need, a large group of them. And while I am praying, the Lord will put it in my mind that I should do something for one of them—maybe a call, or an encouraging email. ONE person out of the many that I’m praying for will become stuck in my mind, and I take that as a sign from God that this one is one I should reach out to on a particular day. And what’s really amazing is that the one He puts in my mind to reach out to, when I reach out to them, always says, “I’m so glad you called because TODAY I really needed some encouragement.” When I begin to pray, I don’t necessarily know the outcome of the prayer. That’s why when we pray, we leave room for God to speak to us in prayer.
Prayer, simply put, is communication with God. When we enter into prayer, we are leaving our earthly realm, and entering into the Divine realm. When we are communicating with God, we are turning off life and its stresses for a few moments, and entering a dialogue (notice I said dialogue, not monologue) with our Creator. This is very powerful, if you think about it, and if we do it the right way. Thus, the more we pray, the more we are in sync with our Lord. The more time we spend in the Divine realm, the more manageable the earthly realm becomes. Why? Because in the Divine realm there is peace and security. The Light of Christ is there. Light overcomes darkness and the peace and security of God helps to manage all stress. Prayer brings not only needed guidance, it brings peace and balance to life.
Today’s prayer is by St. Philaret of Moscow, and it one of my favorite prayers. It is a GREAT prayer with which to start the day, as it places the whole day in the care of the Lord:
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen.
Have a blessed day!
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