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
Pray then like this: Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13
Good morning Prayer Team!
As I mentioned previously, the Lord’s Prayer is the “par excellence” prayer in the Christian world. Because not only does it talk about the needs of today-“Give us this day our daily bread”-but it places today in the context of eternity. Acknowledging that God is in heaven acknowledges that someone greater than us, God, is watching over us from a place greater than the place we are, heaven. Connecting our Father with heaven strengthens our belief in God. It recognizes God as the common Father to all of us. He is not only “our Father”, yours and mine, or all Americans, or all Orthodox. God is everybody’s Father.
This phrase takes us to both the beginning-“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)-and to the end-“Then the King (the Son of Man) will say to those at His right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25: 34). Since the Lord’s Prayer is traditionally offered every day, oftentimes more than once a day (The Lord’s Prayer is traditionally offered prior to each meal, and is part of daily Orthros and Vespers services and part of every Divine Liturgy), we are continually reminded of where we come from (the Lord) and where we are heading (His Kingdom).
As we examine the subject of heaven, there are two points I offer to you. First, how often do you think about heaven? Is it a daily thought? Weekly? Does heaven seem like an abstract idea, or a concrete reality? Heaven, Paradise, is a destination. It is one of two possible destinations where we will go for everlasting life. One destination is eternal life, and the other is eternal punishment. We will each be judged by God for the totality of our lives-our faith, and how our works reflect that faith. In John 5: 28-29, we read “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” So, each day puts us one day closer to that judgment, and to the promised reward or punishment. The Lord’s Prayer is a reminder that we should be working on a daily basis on our journey to salvation. So, one goal you should have today, and every day, is to do something that aids you on your journey to salvation-whether it be prayer, reading scripture, an act of charity, some witness for the Gospel, or worshipping in church. EVERY day should be an occasion for spiritual growth, for growth in the Spirit.
The second thought I leave you with is what do you think heaven will be like? Most people ascribe a secular, material or earthly quality to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Do you ever wonder what they will be like, to be an angel in heaven? We should all be thinking about this idea what we will be doing in heaven. If the angels stand around the throne of God glorifying and praising Him, and if our goal is to stand with their number, then there must be a daily practice of glorifying and praising God. The Divine Liturgy on Sundays, and a daily spiritual life are valuable practice for eternal life. If we wish to join “Our Father”, “in heaven”, for eternity, then there needs to be a daily preparation and working in positive steps towards this ultimate goal.
Almighty Lord, thank You for being our Father. Thank You for all the gifts You bestow on us, Your children. Thank You for creating the heavens and the earth. Thank You for opening up to us a path back to Paradise through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me today, to take a moment to think about heaven, and to offer something of myself today, in some way that benefits my neighbor and brings my soul closer to You. May I give glory to You in all that I do today. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have a great day!
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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.
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