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
Answer me when I call, O God of my right! Thou hast given me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. O men, how long shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. Be angry, but sin not; commune with your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say “O that we might see some good! Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, O Lord!” Thou hast put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for Thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell safety. Psalm 4
Many of the Psalms read as prayers. That’s why when one can’t think of what to pray, a good suggestion is to “pray” the Psalms. Again, they capture every emotion and every need. Perhaps not every one of them does this. We may read a Psalm and not get much out of it. That’s why a personal read through of the Psalms with a notepad to mark down the emotion each one evokes in you is a good idea, so that you can go back to the Psalms that speak directly to you in respect to your emotions and struggles.
Several of the Psalms are labeled as pleas for deliverance from enemies. An enemy is someone who opposes you, who threatens you, who blocks your way, who impedes your progress, who frightens you. Here is the thing with enemies, they are not only people, they can be things. The coronavirus is an enemy—It opposes us in that it makes us sick. It threatens us as it has stopped our way of life. It blocks our way—many of us are moving backward financially and in other ways. It frightens us. It is an invisible enemy, because we do not know how big it is, where it will strike and how bad a blow it will inflict upon our society, our economy, our health, our security and our confidence.
Psalm 4 can be read in the context of the current crisis—
“Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1)We are also praying that God will be merciful and gracious and hear our prayer and give us the means to turn this virus around and away from us.
“How long shall my honor suffer shame?” (4:2) How long is the question on everyone’s mind? How long will we go on like this?
“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him.” (4:3) The Lord knows what is going on. He is neither silent nor absent. The Lord has a plan. It is time for the Godly followers to step forward and lead with patience and love. It is time for the Godly followers to step forward with faith and confidence against our common enemy, the coronavirus and all of its collateral damage.
“Be angry but sin not.” (4:4) This is a refreshing phrase. Yes, we can be angry and frustrated. I am angry about a lot of things—the loss of face to face worship, the loss of face to face ministries, the loss of peace of mind, potential financial loss. I’m frustrated about a lot of things. Sinning isn’t going to fix any of these things. We can be angry and frustrated and still not sin. The Lord showed us an example of this when He cleansed the temple (John 2) and castigated the temple officials who had turned a place of worship into a place of commerce. He didn’t kill anyone or physically harm anyone. He expressed righteous frustration, spoke His mind and left. It is helpful to express frustration. Actually to keep all frustration bottled up inside is unhealthy. There isn’t anyone who doesn’t have some opinion or who hasn’t had some frustration over the current situation we are in. We need to express ourselves but in a respectful way. And we need to hear the frustrations of others with patience.
“Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.” (4:5) The right sacrifice is an offering of prayer to God and an offering of help to others. If we do our best to stay connected with God through prayer and with others through acts of charity and kindness, we’ve made our best effort and then what is left is to put our trust in the Lord.
“O that we might see some good.” (4:6) For sure, we are seeing good come out of this. Whether it is our children learning to do better with technology and be more independent, or whether it was a more meaningful Holy Week experience because we had to put more effort into it, or whether it will be more contentment for what we have, once we have it back. For sure good can come out of this.
“Thou hast put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (4:7) Many people actually have found joy in this time, as they get to spend more quality time at home with family, as they read more instead of watch TV, as they are more intentional and purposeful in friendships, as they are more frugal and less wasteful. In some ways, (not in many ways, but in some ways), this crisis has snapped us out of complacency, and that is a good thing.
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for Thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety.” (4:8) I don’t always feel safe at the store. I certainly don’t feel safe when I listen to the politicians banter and criticize one another. I don’t feel comfortable when I look at the stock market. But I sleep securely every night, knowing that I do so under the heavens that God created, with a life that He guides, with a purpose and a focus to serve Him. In fact, with God is the only place I feel safe these days.
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.
Lean on the Lord in the face of this crisis!