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
Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
Good morning Prayer Team!
A couple of weeks back, I wrote about a movie I saw called “War Room,” which is about the power of prayer. A woman is about to give up on her marriage, when an elderly woman intervenes and puts the woman back on the path not only to a healthy marriage but to salvation. The line I remember most from the movie is when the elderly woman says to the middle aged woman she is counseling on marriage, “You (you and your husband) fightin’ the WRONG enemy.” What she means is that instead of fighting each other, they should unite and fight the devil, who is coming into their marriage and trying to ruin it.
There are many people who don’t believe the devil is real. I most certainly believe he is real. And he does not take up residence in the bars and strip clubs and prisons, where people have already put aside God from their lives, but he shows up in churches and in families, trying to destroy our attempts at salvation and our loving relationships. He enters into marriages and close friendships; he tries to come in between siblings and between children and their parents. He comes especially in times of stress. As an example, I can’t tell you how many times a loving family has come together to grieve the passing of a loved one and very soon thereafter are engaged in acrimony as fights begin over who received what in a will. Is that’s God’s will? Certainly not. Is it the will of parents that their descendants fight and squabble over possessions-almost certainly not, and yet this very thing rips apart families? Is it God’s will that marriages fall apart, or that children don’t speak with parents, sibling don’t speak with siblings and good friendships break up?
Joanna Weaver writes in her book “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World,” that the devil is a master deceiver-he starts with distraction, then creates doubt and swoops in with discouragement. What keeps him away? The power of forgiveness. Putting love over hate, encouragement over discouragement, confidence over doubt, focus over distraction, these are things he can fight against but he can’t win against them. We keep him at bay by keeping love strong in our relationships. When a relationship is faltering, and love begins to decrease, this is where we need conversation, prayer and forgiveness.
And because we are people, and people continually fall into sin, forgiveness is almost a continuous process. We sin, we fall, we repent, we ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven, we are restored and eventually we sin again, the process repeats itself. This is why there must be continual vigilance, continual repentance, continual prayer and continual forgiveness. Hard to imagine forgiving someone 490 (that is seventy times seven), but if I add up how many sins I’ve committed in my marriage, towards my child, towards my close friends, in my parish, the number most likely well exceeds 490. Without forgiveness we are lost in all of our relationships. Without God’s forgiveness, we are lost in our Christian walk. If we expect God to forgive us when we come to Him and ask, then we must be willing to forgive each other. And in terms of fighting, we should try to unite ourselves to fight against the real enemy, which is not each other, but the devil, the one who is against ALL of us!
Lord, thank You for showing us the model of forgiveness, when You forgave the very people who were crucifying You. It is hard to forgive and not hold grudges. Help me to soften my heart towards people with whom I am angry. Help soften the hearts of people who are angry with me. Help me to be patient and slow to anger, as You are with my many sins. Help me to see the good in people. Help them to see the good in me. Amen.
Have a great day!
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. To receive Daily Devotions, email us using this link, and type Daily Devotions in the subject line.
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