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
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us. When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife but knew her not until she had borne a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:22-25)
Good morning Prayer Team!
It’s amazing how much power there is in three simple words: “God with us.” God—All powerful, provider, Comforter, Creator. With—wherever we go, He is there. On the busy road, in the doctor’s office, in moments of triumph, in times of despair. God does not abandon His people. He is very much with us. Us—All people. God does not discriminate who can follow Him. His judgment only will come on those who don’t.
Have you ever had a moment when you felt God with you? When you felt like His hand was right upon you? It doesn’t happen often for me, but it has happened. And the times it has happened is when I was striving to walk WITH God—I can recall times of extremely fervent prayer, times of extreme humility and times of extreme trust. When I’ve laid it all on the line, so to speak, I have felt the presence of God. There are times when I hoped to feel the presence of God, but my own self got in the way. Holding back through lack of trust, or pushing myself forward with ego, these are the times that I feel God has been far away.
God desires to walk with us. Do we desire to walk with Him? Do we leave room for God to take up abode in us? Feeling God’s presence “with us” really comes from how we perceive God’s role in our life. For instance, if we feel that our body is ours and that our life is ours, and we fit God into a compartment, then He is like a tenant. We don’t have a stake in Him. And even though He has a stake in us, it is hard to feel that when we are the owner and He is the tenant. When we see God as the owner of our body and the Lord of our life, then we see ourselves as tenants with the Lord as the overarching landlord. Thus, we live for Him, and not for ourselves. And this is when we most acutely feel Him “with us.”
I love what St. Paul writes in Romans 8:31-32—“What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will HE not also give us all things with Him?”
And in II Corinthians, he writes “But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (II Corinthians 6: 4-10)
The lesson that Saint Paul is teaching is us very simple. If God is with us, we can have nothing and yet still possess everything. Without God, however, we can have “everything” and get still be accounted as nothing. God is with us! Are we with Him?
Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 45/46: 10-11 (read at the Royal Hours of the Nativity)
Go with God today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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