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
When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. I Kings 8:54
Good morning Prayer Team!
Hopefully you are keeping to your five minute alone with God in prayer time each day. Once you have established this habit of spending the time, it is next important to establish a plan for what to do with this time. Enter prayer with a plan. When we pray in church, we enter into corporate prayer with a plan. In fact, the plan is even written down for us—we know before we begin a service what we are going to cover. You don’t need to write down your prayers necessarily, you don’t even need to write down a plan. (though you could, more on that in a minute) But enter prayer with a plan.
I’ll share my plan with you. I encourage people who are just beginning to pray to have a “rule of five”—five things for which you are thankful, five people you wish to pray for and five things you need today. As you get more experienced with prayer, you can drop the “of five” part and make that number much higher. When I begin to pray, I offer a prayer that I know well, like the Lord’s Prayer, or the “Heavenly King” prayer to the Holy Spirit. These “warm up” my mind and awaken my soul to prayer. They require little thought, as I have them memorized, but they help me disengage from the world and prepare to enter into dialogue with God.
The dialogue then continues with thanking God for as many things as I can call to mind. I don’t have the list written down. On any given day, I have much to be thankful for, and I thank God every day, always for things like my family, my health, my job, etc., and then on certain days, I thank Him for things that are specific to those days.
Next, I pray for people. I use a list of names I have written down. People are always asking me to pray for them, and so I have to write down the names to make sure I don’t forget any. I also have the names of the prayer team members written down so that I can pray for you. Also, I sometimes will make a note about certain needs that person might have, like “George—having surgery”, so that I can remember to pray specifically for George’s surgery. There is nothing wrong with making a list of people to pray for.
And then a list of needs for the DAY, which as I wrote previously, is fairly short. A list is not needed here either, though it could be helpful. Like when we write down a list of goals for ourselves for the day, or for the week, or for the year, we can also write down prayers for the day, the week or the year. I saw this idea put to use in the movie “War Room”, where a woman wrote down goals, struggles and ideas and “prayed over” them every day. The needs of a particular day are really not that many.
Finally, I sit in silence for a minute at the end of prayer, and open my mind and my heart in case the Lord brings a thought to me. Some days, I “hear” nothing, just sit for a minute in silence. And on other days, many thoughts come to my mind through prayer.
I try to begin my prayer time with a plan. I may spend more time on a given day being thankful, and on another day praying for others or praying for the things I am in need of. On certain days I may bring a list of names or needs into prayer, and other days I may not. But the outline of my prayer is similar each day—it is familiar to me, comforting. And the time of day is becoming more consistent. With a plan and with consistency, hopefully prayer time will be something you will joyfully look forward to.
Challenge for Today: Include thanksgiving, praying for others, praying for yourself, and a minute of silence part of your prayer today.
Lord, thank You for (list things for which you are thankful).
Lord, remember (make a list of people and their specific needs that you wish to pray for)
Lord, remember my priest and be with him in his ministry.
Lord, remember the members of my church community, especially those who are sick.
Lord, remember all those who are sick or suffering or in any kind of need.
Lord, remember me and my needs of today (list them)
Have a great day!
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