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
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.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28
As we continue to reflection on how to correctly participate in the life of the Church, we move from commitment to enthusiasm. The next several reflections will be about having enthusiasm for the things we have committed to. If eighty percent of success in life is just showing up, then the other twenty percent is how we show up. Do we show up just to be counted, or do we show up with enthusiasm?
The most important ministry in the Church is the liturgical ministry. Because the most unique thing we do in our church communities is worship and receive Christ through Holy Communion. As we have discussed previously, all other aspects of the Christian life—prayer, study of Scripture, serving others, etc.—can be done outside the confines of the Church community. The most important thing we do in the Church is worship.
So it stands to reason that the more enthusiasm we bring to worship, the more we will get out of it. There is a critical point to make here, which is that it is not just a “nice thing” for us to worship with enthusiasm, it is an essential thing that we participate in worship.
Orthodox worship is a series of petitions, responses, prayers and hymns. The petitions and prayers are offered by the clergy. The responses and hymns are offered by the laity. Both clergy and laity are essential to Orthodox worship. Let us focus, however, on why the laity is essential in worship.
The petitions of the service are not prayers in themselves, but prompts to the people to pray. The “prayer” of the laity primarily takes on three forms—“Lord, have mercy,” “Grant this, o Lord,” and “Amen.”
“Lord, have mercy” is a prayer to the Lord to “have mercy” and bless the person or entity we are praying for with His protection and benevolence. For instance, when the priest or deacon prays, “For the peace from Above and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord,” he is prompting the faithful to pray for the peace from God, the peace which passes all understanding, the peace that bring calm even in the midst of conflict. The faithful then pray “’Lord, have mercy” and give us this peace, and not only to us, but to the whole world.
“Grant this, O Lord,” is a prayer to the Lord to “grant” the thing we are praying for. It is offered after petitions for “a perfect, holy peaceful and sinless day,” “for forgiveness and remission of our sins and transgressions,” and “For a Christian end to our lives. . and a good defense before the awesome judgment seat of Christ.” These petitions prompt us to ask God, in a very personal way, to allow these things we are bringing to mind to happen to us.
Each set of petitions concludes with a prayer offered by the priest. And each prayer ends with a response by the people, “Amen,” which means “Let it be so.” In other words, let whatever has been offered in prayer come to fruition in our lives.
Imagine if there is no response from the people. If the priest offers a set of prompts and no one is praying for those things. If the priest offers a prayer and no one completes the prayer by offering “Amen.” (As a side note, when we pray privately, we both offer our prayers and offer an “Amen” at the end of them. In corporate worship, it is the clergy who offer prayers on behalf of the laity, but the laity offer the “Amen” at the conclusion of the prayer.
Worship is corporate prayer. By its very definition, worship happens in the context of community. Even a “small community” of two people can be a community. In other words, when someone comes to confession and it is just that person and the priest, when the priest offers petitions before the confession begins, the person who has come to confession is supposed to offer the responses to these petitions.
Both clergy and laity are essential to worship. The clergy are essential to offering prompts and prayers. The laity are essential to offering responses and hymns. Both must work together in worship.
Worship is supposed to replicate, or give a foretaste of heaven, where the angels and the people stand around the throne of God offering praise. Thus when we worship, we take on the role of the angels and saints. So, in worship, we should come with enthusiasm and joy. Otherwise, worship is “flat” and the praise of God is reduced to ritual instead of joyful work. Enthusiasm is essential to proper participation in worship.
O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the people! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols; but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are His sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts! Worship the Lord in holy array; tremble before Him all the earth! Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yea, the world is established, it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth. Psalm 96
Come to worship with joy. Participate with enthusiasm. Your participation is essential to worship!
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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