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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
And after Jesus had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. Matthew 14:23
A quick update on Alena, the young girl everyone was praying for a few weeks ago. By God’s Providence and your prayers, Alena is home from the hospital and doing much better. She is miraculously on the path to recovery. Please continue to pray for her and her family. Today’s request (and I don’t make them often) is to pray for a young lady named Stavrula, who like Alena has also had a heart transplant. She got diagnosed with cancer and is having surgery Wednesday. If you can please remember her and her family in your prayers. Thank you.
Encouragement and discouragement are opposites. Both are present in our everyday lives. Just like good and evil are opposites and there is a presence of both in our lives. We know that everything that is good comes from God, as we read in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from Above.” We know that encouragement is a good thing and it takes a special person to be an encourager. We also know that the devil constantly tries to thwart the encourager, as he does with anyone that tried to do anything good.
It is critical then, for the encourager to maintain a good disposition of the heart. The heart needs to be continually conditioned so that it is always ready to encourage.
Part of what is needed to be a good encourager is to see yourself in a good light. Of course, it is important to be honest, we all have things we can improve upon. However, avoid things like negative self-talk and allowing negative thoughts to take root in your mind. These things thwart both our own sense of feeling encouraged and our ability to encourage others.
The best way to maintain readiness to encourage is to maintain a close relationship with God. Taking time alone each day to pray and to meditate on scriptures is essential. While faith is shared and celebrated and grown in the context of community, at the core of faith is a personal relationship with the Lord. And this is cultivated first and foremost through personal prayer and reading scripture.
Christ set an example for us to pray, as we are told in Matthew 14:23 that He went up a mountain alone to pray with God. He wasn’t with the multitudes constantly. He had a small group of friends, His disciples, and He wasn’t even around them all the time. He took time out to pray, to spend time with God. If even the Son of God took time to pray, it is incumbent on each of us to do so as well.
Prayer need not be for long periods of time. The focus of prayer also does not need to be the amount of words that are said. “Lord, have mercy” is a prayer that can be repeated over and over again. Same with the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Prayer and Scripture reading are about BEING in the presence of God. The focus isn’t on talking or asking or getting. It’s about being with God.
I can’t tell you how many times I have found both answers to problems and comfort during stressful times in prayer and in scripture. The Bible contains so many passages, you are certain to find passages that will speak directly to you. And when you become familiar with the Bible, you will find “go to” passages that you will go to in the various life circumstances and challenges that come your way.
As for reading the Bible, read one chapter or only a few verses. Read a book of the Bible or read a random page. Read the Bible though. If you’ve never read the Bible, start with the Gospels and read through them several times so that you understand the life and teachings of Christ. And then move to the Epistles and then to the Old Testament.
Being an encourager doesn’t require a lot of preparation. However, being a consistent encourager requires some routine maintenance of your soul. So, keep your soul fed with prayer and Scripture and you will be better at many things in life, including encouraging others.
Another way to look at alone time with God is to compare it to recharging your phone or favorite electronic device. The phones don’t just go and go and go. They need recharging. Most of us recharge the phones daily, and some of us even recharge in the middle of the day. Phones won’t recharge if we don’t plug them in. Like the phones, we work better when we are recharged. And we recharge our spirits when we plug in to Scripture and prayer, and spend some time with our charger, God.
Lord, thank You that I am alive today to offer this prayer to You. Help me to understand that I have a need to recharge every day, and that spending time with You is not a chore but a joy. Help me to better comprehend Scripture. Allow me to hear Your voice come through in prayer and Scripture, so that I can receive not only spiritual renewal but needed guidance. Thank You for the gift of today. Amen.
Pray and read scripture today! Spent time alone with God each day!
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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.