Where do I pray?

a prayer corner

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)

 

Many times when I ask people why do they go to church, the answer is “I go to church to pray.”  That’s a good answer.  We should pray when we are in church.  Sadly, for some people, this is the ONLY place where they are praying.  And this is not what God intended.

 

Take your relationship with your parents, or spouse, or children, or siblings.  What kind of a relationship will you have if you only speak to them occasionally.  In my home, there is my wife and son.  If I only spoke to them once a week, we would certainly have a very dysfunctional home.  The home is functional and our relationship strong because we communicate.  In a family, you have to communicate more than once a week.  You should communicate daily, even throughout the day.  Sometimes communication consists of a short message, and other times it’s a long conversation.  But communication is frequent-that’s how one keeps a relationship strong, whether with God or with another person.  You have to pray outside the context of Sunday worship.

 

So, where then should prayer occur?  There is a tradition in the Orthodox world of having a prayer corner at home.  Some people will take one wall, or one corner of a room and place many icons there.  A small table might hold a Bible or prayer book.  The prayer corner becomes a place of retreat, where one can go and pray.  A recent movie called “War Room” was about the same concept.  A woman took a closet in her house and that became her “war room,” the room where she fought all of her problems in prayer.  There were no icons but the concept was the same, a sacred space in which to pray.  In Orthodox circles, we call this place the “Kat’ oikon ekklesia,” the “Church of the Home.”

 

In my office at church, I have icons on one wall, like a little chapel, and many times when I pray in my office, especially with other people, we go to that wall of the office to pray.  Why?  Can we just pray from the conference table?  Certainly we can.  But having a prayer corner reminds us, first and foremost, that we are not alone in our prayers.  When we pray, the angels and the saints are praying with us.  They are interceding to God for us.  The prayer corner is a powerful reminder that we are not alone in our lives, alone in our struggles.  The prayer corner can also help us focus-the icons give us holy images on which to focus our thoughts.  I find that praying in front of an icon, whether in the altar or at home or in the office helps to minimize distractions.

 

Having said that, the prayer corner should not be a hindrance to prayer.  And the prayer corner most certainly does not pray by itself.  There are many people who have beautiful prayer corners but never stand in them, and never pray.

 

The most important thing you need to know about prayer is simply that YOU NEED TO PRAY.  Icons and prayer corners are nice things, but you need to pray, having icons are tools that helps you pray, but they don’t pray in place of you.  Make sure that you pray.

 

Some people wear prayer ropes-these are the black bracelets with 33 knots on them (representing the 33 years of Christ’s earthly ministry) and people use them to say the Jesus Prayer, offering the prayer many times and moving your finger up one knot each time.  Prayer ropes, like prayer corners, are helpful tools in prayer.  But just wearing a prayer rope does not make you prayerful.  And not wearing one is not a hindrance to prayer either.

 

One caveat about having a prayer corner or wearing a prayer rope is that our behavior must be in line with the presence of these things.  While we shouldn’t waive a fist in anger any time, doing so while wearing a prayer rope around your wrist is problematic, because it identifies you as an angry Christian.  When you have a prayer corner in your house, be careful what you are doing in the room where you have the icons.  Do those activities line up with the presence of holy images in the corner?

 

The positive thing about having a prayer corner or wearing a prayer rope is that it is a visual reminder to be more careful in your practice of Christianity.

 

Prayer corners or prayer ropes are not necessary requirements to pray.  You can pray in a car, while walking, or on a couch.  PRAY!

 

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!  You have 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 Your countenance upon us, o Lord!”  You have 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 You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4

 

Have a blessed day!

 

+Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Tampa, FL

 

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The Great Feast of Theophany

Theophany DoveAt Your Baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest.  For the Father’s voice bore You witness by calling You His Beloved Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of the Father’s word.  O Christ our God, You have appeared to us and enlightened the world.  Glory to You!

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Christ is born! Glorify Him!

nativity-icon

Please join us for the Liturgy of the Lord’s Nativity on Christmas Eve at 7:00 p.m.

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The Nativity Fast

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New Release from St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press

when hearts become flame

When Hearts Become Flame: An Eastern Approach to the Dia-Logos of Pastoral Counseling (Second Edition)

by Dn. Stephen Muse, author of Being Bread

(Revised, 2nd Edition) Whatever else he or she does, the pastoral counselor, same as the priest at the Divine Altar, enters into a call and response relationship, invoking God’s presence and seeking to be receptive to God’s activity unfolding in the here and now. The intention of pastoral counseling must be to offer Christ to the other (and receive Him) while serving at the altar of the human heart.

When Hearts Become Flame reflects on the question, “What makes counseling pastoral?”. This question is in light of the integration of all three aspects of our human nature in dialogue with others, occurring in such a way that Christ appears in ‘between’ bringing healing and transformation. It is not enough to be emotionally warm, theoretically correct and methodologically skillful. Pastoral care and counseling involve an integrated mindful presence existentially engaged in dialogue with the other with the same vulnerability and alertness that one brings to God in prayer. Inner discernment and ascetical struggle along with existential engagement with and for others in working for a just and humane world are equally important in response to God’s love given for all.

++++++
ISBN: 978-0-9905029-7-5  Paperback, 317 pp., 6×9, $19.95

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THE BANQUET OF THE LORD

soldier communion

The importance of preparing to receive the Holy Mysteries

That the Church requires us to prepare to receive the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, prior to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, by saying the Pre-Communion Prayers, is a given. The Church also requires us to fast from midnight on, abstaining from either food or drink, until after we have received the Body and Blood of our Savior. The only exception is when we must, because of health issues, eat or drink something, and this must be blessed by our confessor or priest.

Although not required, if we read the appointed Epistle and Gospel readings prior to entering into the Liturgy, the Word can better enter the heart, for when hearing God’s Word for the second time, we are more receptive, and the Word penetrates deeply.

Perhaps the most important preparation we must make before attending the Divine Liturgy is to be sure we are at peace with all our brothers and sisters. We dare not approach the chalice with malice or hatred towards anyone, nor can we receive the Holy Gifts with a heart that has refused to forgive those who have hurt or offended us. An important part of forgiving others is for us to seek forgiveness. Thus, frequent confession is an imperative.

Participating in the Divine Liturgy is a great privilege, for in this service we are entering into a place where there is neither time nor space, and where we are worshiping the Holy Trinity, together with the hosts of heaven.

In the Liturgy, we encounter God in a way that is beyond human comprehension, for we are invited to commune with our Creator in the most intimate way. To approach the Holy Mysteries (Communion) without thought, as though we were simply going to a movie, is beyond foolishness. To receive the “hot coals” that is meant to transform us, and make us whole, without proper preparation, is a very dangerous thing to do.

Love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Brotherhood of the All-Merciful Savior, Vashon Island, Washington

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Holy Scripture

Old_Bibles

The Holy Scripture is a collection of books written over multiple centuries by those inspired by God to do so. It is the primary witness to the Orthodox Christian faith, within Holy Tradition and often described as its highest point. It was written by the prophets and apostles in human language, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and collected, edited, and canonized by the Church. Above all, the Bible is a faith document.

The Nature of Scripture

The Scriptures both are the word of God and are about the Word of God, Jesus Christ. They are God’s revelation of himself, the word of God in the words of men. The Bible is a witness to the revelation of God, and it is a part of the active and living Holy Tradition of the Church. Thus, if Tradition is the life of the Church, then the Scripture is the primary language of that life.

The Scripture—both Old and New Testaments—is fundamentally about Christ. It is Christocentric and Christological. The whole Bible presupposes the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ. Indeed, the very purpose in writing the New Testament was because Christ had already risen from the dead—with the death of the Apostle James, the Church realized that the eyewitnesses were not always going to be with them, therefore the preaching of the eyewitnesses was written down.

The preaching of the apostles preceded the Scripture, so we must understand the Scripture as an expression of that preaching; the word of God had already gone out and established the Church, which served as the communal context for the Scripture’s composition and canonization. Humanity naturally tends to preach before it makes a written record. Moses’ word to the people of Israel after the Passover was first that they should tell their children. St. Mary Magdalene’s first act upon learning of the Resurrection was to run and tell Peter. Only later did these events get recorded in writing.

The Presupposition of Faith

The Bible presupposes the faith of the reader. It is a faith document—not science, philosophy, history, archaeology, literature, ideology, or biography. Because of its origins and usage in the community of faith, it does not attempt to establish its own authenticity or to prove its basic assumptions. It was not intended as a logical proof for the existence of God or for the reality of that to which it attests.

Faith is the acceptance of a truth on the word of another, not guessing or direct knowledge from being an eyewitness. As St. John Chrysostom says, the Church would die if it were founded only on knowledge (i.e., direct experience); there must be those who take it on faith. Though in the Church’s history many “empirical” experiences of Biblical revelation have been had by the saints, they are by no means the norm. Most Christians in this life will never directly witness the truths described in the Bible, and so they must read it with the eyes of faith.

The Integrity of Scripture

Because the Bible is a faith document, we must respect its integrity as the final revelation of the Orthodox Christian faith. We do not recognize any other writings as canonical Scriptures other than those listed below. Though the Bible does not constitute an all-sufficient summary of revelation, no new revelation has been given. Even if another document were to be unearthed which scholars all agreed came from the hand of Paul or Moses, it would not be added to the canon. Likewise, if an existing part of the canon were undeniably proven not to be from its traditionally ascribed author, it would not be removed from the canon.

The Purpose of Scripture

Holy Scripture exists for the reason that the Apostle John gives in John 20:30-31: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (KJV) That is, the Bible is written so that we might believe and be saved.

The Canon of Scripture

The Old Testament canon of Scripture is that of the Septuagint, which was the Bible of the apostles. Other Christian communions through the years have deviated somewhat from this apostolic canon which the Orthodox Church still uses. The canon of the New Testament was developed over the early centuries of the Church. Its first known listing in its final form is the Paschal Letter of St. Athanasius of Alexandria in A.D. 367.

The Old Testament – Septuagint or simply “LXX”, the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible.

Pentateuch or “the Law”

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

Historical Books

  1. Joshua
  2. Judges
  3. Ruth
  4. I Kingdoms
  5. II Kingdoms
  6. III Kingdoms
  7. IV Kingdoms
  8. I Chronicles
  9. II Chronicles
  10. I Esdras
  11. II Esdras
  12. Nehemiah
  13. Tobit
  14. Judith
  15. Esther with additions
  16. I Maccabees
  17. II Maccabees
  18. III Maccabees

Books of Wisdom

  1. Book of Psalms
  2. Job
  3. Proverbs
  4. Ecclesiastes
  5. Song of Solomon
  6. Wisdom of Solomon
  7. Wisdom of Sirach

The Prophets

The Minor Prophets, or “The Twelve”

  1. Hosea
  2. Amos
  3. Micah
  4. Joel
  5. Obadiah
  6. Jonah
  7. Nahum
  8. Habakkuk
  9. Zephaniah
  10. Haggai
  11. Zachariah
  12. Malachi

The Major Prophets

  1. Isaiah
  2. Jeremiah
  3. Baruch
  4. Lamentations
  5. Letter of Jeremiah
  6. Ezekiel
  7. Daniel with additions

Appendix

  1. IV Maccabees

The New Testament

Gospels

  1. Gospel of Matthew
  2. Gospel of Mark
  3. Gospel of Luke
  4. Gospel of John

History

  1. Acts of the Apostles

Epistles

Pauline Epistles

  1. Romans
  2. 1 Corinthians
  3. 2 Corinthians
  4. Galatians
  5. Ephesians
  6. Philippians
  7. Colossians
  8. 1 Thessalonians
  9. 2 Thessalonians
  10. 1 Timothy
  11. 2 Timothy
  12. Titus
  13. Philemon
  14. Hebrews

General Epistles

  1. James
  2. 1 Peter
  3. 2 Peter
  4. 1 John
  5. 2 John
  6. 3 John
  7. Jude

Apocalypse

  1. The Book of Revelation

(from Orthodox Wiki)

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