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
Save me, O God, by Thy name, and vindicate me by Thy might. Psalm 54:1
We constantly look to others for approval. This is very typical, almost natural behavior for us. Everyone wants to feel accepted and liked for who they are. And sometimes, in our desire to be liked we do things that are unlike ourselves, only to win approval from others. Here is an example—a person who doesn’t normally swear is in a conversation with friends who are swearing and feels pressure to swear just to fit into the conversation. Or a young person who doesn’t drink or do drugs feels pressure (even if not directly being pressured by being told to do it, but indirect pressure because it is happening around them) to drink or use drugs just to fit in socially.
Vindication and validation are often confused. They are actually two different words, that get intertwined. Vindication is when one is cleared from an accusation, suspicion or criticism. Validation is to render one correct. In our attempt to find validation, we often end up doing things that are not appropriate which we will later need to be vindicated from.
Psalm 54 reminds us that we need vindication from God, we need His forgiveness when we have done wrong. We know that our salvation can only come from God—it can’t come from the vindication or validation of man.
Psalm 54:3 says “For insolent men have risen against me, ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before them.” This verse seems perhaps a little over the top, as most of us don’t think we have people who are seeking our lives, as if to kill us. However, when we think about it, there are plenty of people who seek our lives to destroy them, in a moral and spiritual sense. There is a lot more discouragement than encouragement in the world to be a moral and Christ-centered person. There is a lot of temptation to take away our focus from Christ. There are a lot of people who “do not set God before them.”
Rather than dwell on this, we ask God to “hear my prayer” and “give ear to the words of my mouth. (54:2) We place our trust in God as our “helper” and “upholder of my life.” (54:4). It is the Lord who we will trust to “requite my enemies.” (54:5) Rather than taking on our enemies, we ask the Lord to protect us from them, but giving us words, knowledge, strength, comfort and whatever else we need to defend ourselves against every enemy. We also recognize that our enemy may be a person or group of people, it may be anxiety, illness, cancer, an overall feeling of being uncomfortable. We all have a lot of enemies of various kinds to overcome. Right now, the enemy for many of us is personal anxiety. We don’t feel comfortable. And when we feel like this, our confidence wanes and doubts rise. We need God to vindicate us from these enemies, and to help us feel a restored confidence in Him, in ourselves, and in our ability to handle whatever is going to come our way today.
We are reminded to give thanks to God (54:6) at all times, even in the face of enemies. And we are assured that our eyes will be able to look “in triumph on my enemies” (54:7) because the Lord will give us the grace and strength to do so.
On a recent morning, I felt a wave of anxiety come over me, and I couldn’t explain it or even figure out why I felt so anxious. I feel anxious often these days, as I know many of you do, but generally I can pinpoint the source of the anxiety. And on this particular day, I couldn’t. Reflecting on this Psalm gave me a sense of comfort, and even though it didn’t complete restore my confidence and put away the anxiety, it gave me a sense that God reigns supreme, even in my anxiousness. Asking God to put words into my mouth gave me a confidence that when I need to open up and interact with people, particularly those who make me anxious, that He will be right there with me, guiding my words and my thoughts. It also gave me a sense of surrender, that God is truly the only upholder of my life. We all go through times when we think we can do it on our own. Or that our money or reputation or position of authority or something else can get us through. I can say without a doubt that there are times when none of these things is helpful. At times I feel stripped away of all of them. And then that sense of nothingness and hopelessness somehow gets filled—actually it is not “somehow” as if it happens randomly or with “luck.” It is God Himself who comes to fill our empty spaces and give us the confidence to look in triumph over whatever enemy confronts us on a given day.
Save me, O God by Thy name and vindicate me by Thy might. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For insolent men have risen against me, ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before them. Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will requite my enemies with evil; in Thy faithfulness put an end to them. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to Thee; I will give thanks to Thy name, O Lord, for it is good. For Thou hast delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 54
Stay close to God in thought and in prayer today!
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.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
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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