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 Nineteen
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by me. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6
Good morning Prayer Team!
As we continue this study on being a disciple and praying, there are natural questions of where, when and how long to pray, which will be the subjects of the next three reflections. Today we examine “where” we are to pray.
The simple answer to the question of where to pray is easy, we can pray anywhere and everywhere. We can pray in bed, in the car, at our desk at work, at the gym, in the shower, and pretty much anywhere we can think of.
We should also, however, have a set place in which to pray. One of the beautiful customs in the Orthodox world is to make an icon corner or icon wall in a family home. The Orthodox Church sanctuary is meant to be a sanctuary from the hustle and business of the world, a place where one can feel removed from the world, and can sit in peace and solitude, surrounded by icons of Saints and of the Lord and the Virgin Mary, and the angels. This idea of a sanctuary shouldn’t be limited only to the church and only to the once a week we generally worship in church. We can make the corner of a room, or a wall of a room into an icon corner, a sanctuary where one can retreat to pray on a daily basis. In Orthodox circles, this is called a “home church.” It doesn’t take the place of the Church Sanctuary in which we worship, but supplements the Church Sanctuary by being a place that is readily accessible all the time.
The “home church”, however, also provides one of the traps in Orthodoxy. Some people will reason that having a prayer corner at home negates the need to go to church, or go to church often. The biggest “trap” we hear is that we have our icon corners, or walls, or rooms, and yet we do not spend time in front of our icons. Some may feel that it is good “karma” to have a display of icons in our homes. (Orthodoxy does not believe in karma by the way). We may even walk by our icons and feel like we have the saints and angels watching over us. They ARE watching over us, whether we pray or acknowledge that or not. The purpose in making a “home church” or an icon corner at home is not to admire it, but to spend time in front of our icons, offering prayers, reading the Bible and growing in faith.
There was a movie several years ago entitled “War Room.” In the movie, the main character, empties out a closet and uses as a place to prayer, a “war room” in which to do battle against the devil and temptation. Her prayer room was not filled with icons, as this was not an Orthodox person, but was filled with encouraging Bible verses, thoughts, reflections, prayer requests, spiritual goals and names of other people to pray with. This women went into the “war room” every day to spend time with God.
A good prayer life starts with setting up good habits. These include picking a place in which to pray. Whether you have an icon wall or a war room is not what matters. What matters is that we each have a specific place (and tomorrow we’ll discuss specific times) in which to pray, to speak with Christ, to listen to His voice.
When we spend time in the sun, our skin color changes. We become tan and darker. Society looks at a tan as a good thing, so spending time out in the sun is a good thing, it creates a good hue to our skin. Spending time in the presence of “the Son” (the Son of God, as opposed to the sun in the sky) changes the tone of our hearts. Sitting with Christ, sitting in front of an icon, sitting with a Bible in our laps, all of these things put us in the presence of the Son, and put us in a position to have our hearts changed and renewed.
Many of us (especially in the Tampa Bay area where I live) have a favorite beach where we retreat. My family, like many others, tends to go to the same beach each time we want to get in some beach time. There is a special sandy and sunny sanctuary where we go to renew ourselves. In the same way, we need to set up a special place, a special sanctuary, where we can go and spend time consistently with “the Son” so that we can renew ourselves continually as well. Unlike the beach, which requires us to pack some things and drive for an hour, the prayer corner should be a place that is readily accessible, so that we can go to it every day, and especially during the times when we need some since of safety and spiritual renewal.
Of course, as we mentioned at the outset, one can pray anywhere, one is not limited to one specific place for their prayers to be heard. However, having a consistent place to go to God in prayer helps us develop a more regular habit, because it “ritualizes” a prayer routine, and we therefore have it in mind as we plan our daily schedules—we leave and place to sit with the Son each day.
Help, Lord; for there is no longer any that is godly; for the faithful have vanished from among the sons of men. Every one utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boats, those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is our master?” “Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. Do Thou, O Lord, protect us, guard us ever from this generation. On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the sons of men. Psalm 12
Sit with God in your “special place” (icon corner or war room) today!
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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