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 Six
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Good morning Prayer Team!
There are very few natural behaviors. Sleeping is one of them. So is crying. No one needs to teach you how to do either. However, most behaviors are learned. Either we watch someone, or we are specifically taught how to do something.
Prayer is one behavior that is learned. Which means that in order to be good at it, we have to be specifically taught how to pray, or at the very least have had a good role model and picked up something from our role model(s).
Like most of us, I can’t say that I was specifically taught how to pray. I can’t remember anyone teaching me the parts of a prayer—that we should thank God, or pray for other people. I was never taught how often to pray. That is not an indictment of anyone, I don’t think most people of my parents’ generation were teaching their children how to pray, because most children of my generation were not raised praying. Most still do not know how to pray. And sadly, most are not teaching their children now, which is going to result in yet another generation of non-pray-ers.
My “role model” for prayer was my Dad. My Dad never gave me any words of advice on prayer. However, I watched him do a couple of things that have always stayed with me. Every morning, when my Dad got up, before his feet hit the floor, he would make the sign of the cross. He never told me I should do that, or why he did it. He just did it. I saw it enough times and by the time I was in high school, I started doing this as well. I always make the sign of the cross when I get out of bed in the morning and when I get in it at night. I don’t know what, if any, prayers, Dad might have offered when he would make the sign of the cross. I just know that he made the sign of the cross because that’s what I saw.
The other thing I saw my Dad do was light a “kandili” or votive candle in front of our family icons in the dining room every morning. He would carry the little red glass into the kitchen, put more oil in it and a fresh wick, would light it and carry it to a little shelf in front of our icons. Then he would pause and pray for a moment. He never asked me to pray with him. Once in a while, he’d let me carry the kandili to the dining room which I always thought was an important job. My Dad carried through with this disciple every day of his life, up until a few days before he died.
Though he never read the Bible to us, Dad read the Bible. I have his Bible in my office. It is very worn, the print is almost missing from some pages. You can tell that he read this Bible a lot, because you can see where he turned the pages. He knew large portions of the Bible in Greek from memory.
I know my Dad didn’t do his rituals to impress us. However, I do believe that he wanted us to know what he was doing. He was very quiet about what he was doing. However, what he did model for us was a sense of discipline and consistency. He never missed a day of his “rituals.” He always made time in the morning to light the candle and offer a prayer. He was never too busy, or too in a hurry. He did something small, but he did it deliberately every day. And while he never taught us with words, he definitely taught us by example.
It would have been helpful in my childhood to have had some more instruction and encouragement on how to pray. Because I came into adult life without really any clue on how to pray. And as I have written before, it’s been a lifelong struggle. For those who have children, it’s important that you teach them how to pray, so that the habits that they learn in childhood will be habits they carry throughout their lives.
Now, if you are well into your adult years, as I am, and you still are not sure how to pray, don’t worry. First, you are not alone. Most people do not know how to pray. Secondly, keep reading, as this unit will go over specific ways to improve your prayer life.
Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications! In Thy faithfulness answer me in Thy righteousness! Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for no man living is righteous before Thee. For the enemy has pursued me; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that Thou hast done; I muse on what Thy hands have wrought. I stretch out my hands to Thee; my soul thirsts for Thee like a parched land. Make haste to answer me, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not Thy face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the Pit. Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in Thee I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to Thee I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies! I have fled to Thee for refuge! Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God! Let Thy good spirit lead me on a level path! For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In Thy righteousness bring me out of trouble! And in Thy steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am Thy servant. Psalm 143
Learn how to pray so that you can model prayer for others!
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: TCW
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