Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.

Jesus told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:2-7

There isn’t A singular problem in the world.  There are lots of problems.  And thus there isn’t A single solution.  The solutions to the problems are many and are complex.  Each of us makes many decisions each day, many of which can contribute to either “the problem” or to “the solution.”  When we choose to gossip or tear down, we are part of the problem.  When we choose to build up and encourage, we are part of the solution.

The Church also has a choice—it can be part of the solution or part of the problem.  When it becomes a place of gossip, it becomes part of the problem.  When it becomes a safe refuge, it becomes part of the solution.

At a recent GOYA (teenage church group) athletic tournament, we saw both problems being created as well as solutions.  Some of the problems included poor sportsmanship on the field, rudeness to the referees, foul language and pranking at the hotel.  All of these things created problems for the participants, a bad witness to the non-Orthodox referees, and angst for everyone.  Some of the solutions included good sportsmanship, encouragement, and comradery among the participants.  When the event was over, it made me wonder “was this event part of the solution or part of the problem?”  And the answer is “I’m not sure.”

Did the participants in the event evaluate their behavior as being part of the solution or part of the problem?  I’m not sure.  I don’t know if people consciously think that what they are doing might be part of an overall problem, or if it’s just habit.  The same thing goes for the solution—are people actively working to be part of the solution, or is it just habit, the good things they are doing.

It think it’s a fair statement to say that we should be more conscious, deliberate and purposeful about being part of the solution.  And we should be very careful and intentional about not being part of the problem.  This comes about by being aware, being present, thinking about consequences, and thinking about the best for other people as a whole, not necessarily just thinking about what is good for oneself.

These are certainly four big challenges.  Being aware—If a person sits on an airplane and plays music on their phone without earbuds, they are showing a lack of awareness that there are hundreds of people around them who may not appreciate their music or want to even hear music.  Thus, in making our decisions, we need to be aware of the people around us who might be affected by them.

Being present goes hand in hand with being aware.  Going back to the example on the airplane.  A person can be aware of the people around them and decide to listen to music on their earbuds.  They can get lost in their own world.  And then let’s say that someone around them is in distress and needs assistance, the person lost in their music will not be “present” and able to help.  So we need awareness, but we also need presence.

Thinking about consequences is something we can all improve on, not just teenagers.  It is true that the last part of our brains to form is the part that controls fear and consequences.  This part of the brain isn’t fully formed until our mid-20s.  Which is why teenagers and college students do so many dumb things—they don’t understand consequences.  There are also plenty of older people who operate in the same way.  They don’t understand that decisions they make may have consequences, even unintended consequences, for others around them.

We also need to think at times about the good of other people as a whole, not just about what is good for ourselves.  What brings comfort for someone might being angst for someone else.  As an example, I might feel like sleeping in late on a Sunday, but a decision to go to church an hour late would not be good for those who came on time.

We can practice awareness, presence, thinking about consequences, and the good of the whole group in the context of our church community.  If we become good at these things, the church community becomes part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.  It also becomes attractive to people who are looking for solutions, rather than problems.  When we fail to do these things, the church community becomes part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, and people leave the church and outsiders are not attracted to it because, after all, who needs more problems?

The lesson for today is for us as individuals as well as being a church community.  And this is to evaluate our behavior and ask ourselves, as we part of the solution or part of the problem?  And is our church community part of the solution or part of the problem?  This is not a question and answer for one time, but needs to be asked and answered continuously.  We each have the capacity to be part of the solution or part of the problem.  There is no one who can’t be part of the solution, or who is immune from being part of the problem.  The challenge is make the right choice and doing it often, individually and as a community.

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”  Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem, built as a city which is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  May they prosper who love you!  Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!  For my brethren and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.  Psalm 122

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem, in your life and in the life of the church community!

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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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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 multiple books, you can view here: https://amzn.to/3nVPY5M


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