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
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
In a football game, a team will typically run 70 offensive plays. Before each play, the offense will huddle, the quarterback will call a play and the team will line up to run the play. There is a critical step that is made between the huddle and the running of the play, and that is that the quarterback will look over the defensive alignment of the other team and evaluate whether the play he called is going to work. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he will “call an audible,” a code of numbers, letters and words which changes the play to something that will work better. This evaluation takes only seconds, yet without it, many plays will fail. No successful quarterback is so egotistical that he thinks every play he calls in the huddle is going to work. No successful quarterback doesn’t do this evaluation before he runs a play. And when you watch a game, if you don’t know the score, you won’t be able to tell which quarterback is on the winning team or the losing team because they do the same evaluation regardless of the score.
In our lives, just like with the football team, we call about 70 plays a day, we make about 70 decisions each day. Unlike the football team, probably half of those decisions don’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter if you eat pizza or pasta for lunch. It doesn’t really matter if you fold the laundry or put away the dishes first.
However, on a given day, there are probably 35 decisions (35 plays) that really do matter, that will alter the course of the day, and perhaps even the course of our lives. If you are running late, there is a decision to drive like normal or drive like a maniac. If you have to confront a co-worker, there is a decision to be calm, or irrational, or firm, or to be non-confrontational. If you have to bring up a touchy subject with your spouse or your children, there is a question of how to do that. Which task to take on first at work? Is it worth getting upset with your child’s teacher for a grade that seems unfair? And on and on.
Many of us make these decisions (call these plays) with our gut instinct. We don’t necessarily take time to evaluate a decision and think through whether it is a good decision. Which is why most of us make bad decisions at times.
Imagine if we did what the quarterback of the football team does, if we took time to evaluate a decision, or even a thought, before we put it in play. This evaluation is prayer. Imagine offering a quick prayer before executing every important decision we make in a day. Like the quarterback on the football team, that quick pause might cause us to change our play. Now imagine never evaluating a decision. Not only will that result in lots of mistakes, but it will make us egotistical, thinking that we never do wrong.
For most people, it is a challenge to pray. And one of the greatest challenges if finding the time to pray. Praying quickly before executing the 35 or so important decisions we make each day is a great way to pray often, and will result in us making better decisions, because we will have evaluated our decisions, not just from the standpoint of their successful outcome, but more importantly, we will evaluate whether our decisions are in line with what Christ teaches.
Prayer not only helps us experience intimacy with God, but it helps us to keep ourselves in line with how God teaches us to live, it helps us to be holy and set apart, as He has called us to be. Imagine going into a difficult confrontation with a co-worker, and immediately before this confrontation, you pray, “Lord, help me to be kind.” It will be near impossible to in the next breath confront the co-worker and be unkind, because you have just asked God for help in being kind.
In these situations, while we can pray for God for the co-worker to be kind, that may or may not happen. Rather, we should pray to God to help us in how we behave, since this is something we control.
A great way to improve our prayer life is to offer short prayers throughout the day, asking God to help guide our decisions. This will help us make better decisions, fewer mistake, and keep our lives and our decisions more Christ-centered and in line with Him.
Lord, each day I make many decisions. Give me the wisdom to make sound decisions, the patience to evaluate my decisions and the discipline to include You, through prayer, in all the important decisions I will make today. Amen.
Invite Christ into your decision making process by making prayer part of your important decisions each day!
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