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
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water; He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake
It is safe to say that lots of us are tired—tired of being cooped up, tired of not knowing how this is all going to end, tired of the uncertainty, tired of not seeing people. Some of us might be tired of our families since that is all we see, some of us are tired of being alone, and some of us are bored, even people who are busy are bored because the busyness right now is so different.
When we are tired, as a general rule, we need “restoring.” For many of us, this comes in the form of relaxation or vacation. People relax and travel in order to be away from things and to be restored, and ready to return. For many of us, vacations won’t happen this year, at least not the travel kind of vacation. And for many of us, it is hard to relax when our sources of relaxation—parks and beaches, sports games, etc. are closed or on hiatus.
Psalm 23:3 reminds us that the Lord is one who can restore our souls. When we relax with the Lord, there is something restorative that happens. It’s like when we are having a bad day and we can’t wait for that bad day to end, and then at night we fall asleep and we wake up the next day and it isn’t so bad, because the sleep has restored us. God can provide restoration that we don’t need to wait for a whole day to pass in order to receive. God can restore us mid-day, mid-stream, mid-problem. God doesn’t necessarily restore health or wealth when we’ve lost these things. However, He restores calm when we are anxious and confidence when we feel shaken.
When we examine Psalm 23, that the Lord is our Shepherd, Who leads us to green pastures and beside still waters, He also restores our souls in the process of leading us. We allow our souls to be restored when we trust in Him. When we are anxious and troubled about everything, we cannot have a sense of being restored. When we allow ourselves to relax in prayer, spiritual restoration can occur quickly and at any time.
For the person who tries to make it without sleep, eventually he or she will break down physically, if not mentally, because we all need time to restore. We have to sleep, to relax, to rest. No one can go on and on without physical restoration. Spiritually speaking, we can’t just go on and on without some spiritual restoration. Eventually our spirits, our souls will break down. The regular anxieties of life wear us down, and when a big crisis comes, we are not ready to face it. When we allow God to restore us spiritually, by turning to Him in prayer, then when the crisis comes, we are better ready to face the crisis. And in the middle of crisis, we are better to keep ourselves together spiritually.
In this current crisis in our country, we are all on edge more than we normally are. Instead of being at 100% capacity, we are all somewhat compromised by the stress of the current challenges we face. For example, if we are at 50% capacity to handle things, because stress has compromised us 50%, then we are only half as able to fight off or meet challenges as we would be under normal circumstances. Prayer can help us relax and restore, so that the 50% compromise can be reduced and the 50% capacity to handle things can be increased. Sleep helps the body, relaxing helps the mind and prayer helps the spirit. Prayer helps because the Shepherd works through prayer to restore our souls. And with souls restored, we are more ready to follow in the “paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3) than we are when our souls are troubled. With restored souls, we are better able to following in the paths of righteousness on any given day, through any challenge that comes our way.
Prayer of Protection from the Coronavirus
(Prayer by Grace Bishop Alexis (Trader) of Bethesda)
O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in Your ineffable goodness, look down upon Your people gathered in Your name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. You know our weakness. You hear our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. O Lord who loves mankind deliver us from the impending threat of the corona virus. Send Your Angel to watch over us and protect us. Grant health and recovery to those suffering from this virus. Guide the hands of physicians, and preserve those who are healthy that we may continue to serve You in peace and glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
In prayer today, ask God to help restore your soul to a more calm state, and then you will be better equipped to deal with the challenges of today. Faith is trusting in God to lead our souls to restoration, even in time of crisis.
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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