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 makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water.
As I read this verse, two images come to mind. The first is of a meadow with a gentle river slowly flowing through it. I’ve been fortunate to visit many national parks and have seen many such scenes. The air is clean, the color of the earth is vibrant and pure. The grass is bright green; the dew catches the sunlight making the pasture look like it is covered with diamonds. This is a far cry from what our eyes see on a daily basis. A counter filled with dirty dishes, next to a stack of bills, that we haven’t had time to look through because we are busy trying to get the kids ready for school and prepare for the work day.
Our lives are far away from the green pastures. Because I have spent time in green pastures, my mind still remembers what they looked like. And in a moment’s time, I can readily recall these images. Our relationship with God works the same way. When we’ve spent time with God, in prayer, in stillness, in peace, those feelings are available on a moment’s notice.
Let’s say that I’m stressed out because my life resembles the scene painted above with the counter, the bills, the child getting ready, etc. It is possible to step away from that scene even for thirty seconds, close my eyes, see the meadow and feel a sense of peace. In the same way, it is possible to step away from the stress, close our eyes in prayer, and feel the peace of God wash over us, the same way that the peaceful river washes through the meadow.
The second image has to do with rivers. I have always been fascinated by the sight of moving water. I like the sight and sound of rushing water. I like seeing big waves on the ocean when I’m standing on the beach or on a cliff above the ocean. However, when I am actually in the water, I prefer it to be calm. If we are honest, most of our lives do not resemble still waters. They are more like class V rapids or 20 foot waves. We lack stillness and serenity. The waves of life beat against us. The rapids at the same time challenge us and terrify us. And while we pray for strength to meet the challenges, we also pray for the still waters to return.
The Lord, as our shepherd, can lead us through the rapids and the waves to the still water. We’ve all seen rapids in a river suddenly stop and lead to calm water below them. We’ve all seen calm water above rapids suddenly become swift and dangerous. In prayer, we ask the Lord to keep the waters of our life calm. And when circumstance drags us into waters that are turbulent and dangerous, we ask God, and we trust God that He will bring us through the violent cataracts of water to the still waters that provide for calm, security and serenity.
Life has thrown us into a river filled with rapids and rocks in the early months of 2020. It’s hard to remember the tranquil water. Some of us wonder if this “rough ride” is going to be the new normal. Will we ever be beside still waters? We read in Philippians 4:7, about the “peace of God which passes all understanding.” This is the peace that comes in the middle of conflict, the stillness that can come in the midst of the rapids. When the Lord is our shepherd, He can lead us to the still waters even in the midst of the storm.
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.
Remember the “green pastures.” Ask God to lead you to the still waters!
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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