Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Prayer

The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Prayer
As part of our “Ask Father” series I was asked, “Can we pray for people who are not of the Christian faith, for example for the healing from a sickness?” When I was considering this question, it occurred to me that we should speak about prayer in general since it is a central part of our Orthodox Christian Life. The simple answer to this question is, “YES, we should pray for people who are not Christian,” but why might be a better question. For that we turn to the New Testament witness.

Christ Himself addressed the topic of prayer several times within the Gospel, mostly in the context of the act of praying. He was either praying or telling His followers to pray...
  • Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5.44)
  • Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. (Matthew 26.41)
  • Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10.2)
  • Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21.36)
  • When you pray, say: Our Father.... (Luke 11.2-4 see also Matthew 6.9-13)

Who should we pray for? EVERYONE
What should we pray for? SALVATION, MERCY, and PEACE for EVERYONE
Where should we pray? In the depth of your heart, sometimes alone and sometimes with others.
When should we pray? ALWAYS be in a state of prayer
Why should we pray? Because it brings us closer to God and each other

There are times for personal private prayer, and there are times for communal public prayer. We need both to fulfill our spiritual journey to God. If we only pray in the privacy of our secret place, we run the risk of wounding the unity of our Christian family. If we pray only when we come to Church, we run the risk of temptation from the sinful world that surrounds us. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Coexistence is part of the Christian Life

So often Christians feel like life “would be easier” if everyone was a believer. If you have ever spent more than just a few hours at an Orthodox Christian monastery or seminary, you would know this is not at all possible. I remember well how I had to overcome this myth my first year at seminary. The truth is Christians will always be surrounded by non-Christians, so it would be better to learn how to live our Christian life despite the lack of Christian examples in our immediate society.

Consider today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew 13:36-43 - At that time, Jesus went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Life isn’t about being able to weed out non-believers. It is about living a New Life In Christ among non-believers. Until the return of Christ our goal must be to remain loyal and bear fruit for the glory of God. In fact, if we are able to live as Christians in a non-Christian environment, THAT is what will draw attention toward the power of a relationship with God. It was the NEW LIFE IN CHRIST of the early Christian saints that turned countless pagans to consider loving the Lord. If they see you loving God with all your heart, mind, body and soul, despite the efforts of others to turn you against God, your loyalty will be a light shining the way to God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The World Needs More UNmercenaries

Today the Orthodox Church commemorates the memory of the Great Martyr Panteleimon, the physician. Trained in medicine, he treated people FREE OF CHARGE in the NAME OF CHRIST. In today’s political environment it has become almost second nature to hear someone speak about the need for universal health care. For sure the cost of health care in our nation has gotten out of control with premiums so high that many families hold down a second job JUST for health insurance, and if the insurance is used for anything but the slightest routine procedure, our premiums increase.

Within the breadth of the debate I hear about access for the poor to health care, and how granting universal access would bring health care to the poor. I’ve never really been a huge fan of bigger governmental plans for anything, let alone health care. The truth is the government rarely delivers on what they promise. What the world REALLY needs is more UNmercenary physicians.

Imagine how we could grant access to the poor if more trained professionals provided their services for free? Imagine how many of our brothers and sisters could receive routine check-ups if UNmercenary doctors and nurses followed the path of Saint Panteleimon? The UNmercenary Saints (there have been many in history) didn’t receive pay from OTHERS to treat the sick. They provided for themselves often from family fortunes.

I say this because inserted into the carillon calls for free services from the government, many often invoke Christian compassion as the justification of increased government services. Using the government to serve others doesn’t make anyone a better Christian. Saint Panteleimon didn’t use the King’s money, he used his own resources to treat the sick.

I DON’T write this today to suggest that doctors and nurses shouldn’t be compensated for their services. Christ reminds us a “worker is worthy of his food.” (Matthew 10.10) I only remind you of the rich Christian history of UNmercenary saints who treated the sick without compensation. The world has plenty of doctors and nurses; the world needs more UNmercenaries.