Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Importance of Prayer

Last month I wrote about The Importance of Bible Study from within the Orthodox Christian point of view. But the study of the Holy Scriptures, while being central to our Christian life, is not to be to the exclusion of other Christian disciplines. In fact the Church teaches that reading the Holy Scriptures should be experienced within the context of prayer.

Prayer is a very broad term that refers to a wide range of religious communication. As a matter of fact, prayer is nothing more than communication with another being, Divine or human. We can, and should, pray directly to God, while we can, and should, pray also to the Saints and our departed ancestors. PRAYER IS NOT WORSHIP, although it can be that too when it is directed toward God.

From the Orthodox Christian point of view, we exist as a community of believers sharing our lives together as we grow closer to Jesus Christ. Prayer plays a vital role in this process of communal spiritual growth. Here are three examples of prayer.

Intercessory Prayer – This is praying for each other to God for health and salvation and other human needs. In times of trouble, we are often called upon to “pray for one another,” (James 5.16) as an expression of love for our fellow human beings. As Orthodox Christians, this most normally takes the form of “Prayer Lists” where we ask God to bless our family and friends BY NAME. With intercessory prayer, it is not necessary to itemize the list of needs for our family since, “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8.26) The simple of act of asking God to bless our friends and family is sufficient.

Supplication Prayer – This is praying to the Theotokos and the Saints, or even our departed family members, to offer their intercessory prayer to God for our friends and family. This prayer is most commonly expressed in services like the Paraklesis to the Theotokos (or other Saints) when we ask her to pray to God for our salvation. We could also consider this the same as calling a friend and asking them to pray for someone. The Saints are our friends and family too and should be included in those we ask to include us in their prayers. This does not replace prayer directly to God; it merely increases those who are praying to Him for our needs.

Thanksgiving Prayer – We grow up being reminded to always say ‘thank you’ when we receive something. We receive blessings every day from God and we should thank Him. In the Divine Liturgy we even thank Him for “blessings seen and unseen,” since our pride can, and does, so often blind us to the blessings God has given to us. We should include this type of prayer EVERY DAY in our daily devotions.

There are other types of prayer: confession, adoration, and mediation on God for example. Notice I did not include anything about prayer for OUR needs or OURselves. It isn’t that we should not also take our needs to God; WE SHOULD. But when it comes to our needs, the most important prayer is, “Lord, have mercy.” The need for God’s mercy in our life is never-ending.

As we enter the Holy season of Great Lent this month, I invite you to take time every day to include these types of prayer into your life. Feel free to send me your prayer list and I will include your family and friends in my daily prayers for Great Lent. In return, check with your local Church for their prayer list. MOST Churches publish a list of names in the community of people in need of prayers. Please include these names in your personal prayers to God. In this way, YOU are praying for their needs, and THEY are praying for your needs, and together WE are all praying for one another.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Triodion – A Time of Reflection

Each year the Church enters a period known as The Triodion (or PreLent) just before the Great Fast. The four Sundays of the Triodion are meant to create in us a desire to correct our sinfulness and seek Christ in our Lenten Journey. We can look at the Triodion as a time for “Spiritual Self-Assessment” or “Self-Evaluation” as we prepare to embark upon the Great Fast.

The first Sunday of the Triodion, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, is focused upon humility and the mercy of God. Only when we are humble enough to acknowledge that we are sinners, are we strong enough to seek mercy from God. Jesus said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18.14)

The Pharisee (the supposed religious elite) said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” (Luke 18.12) It is unlikely that he would spend the Great Fast working to improve himself since he already thinks he’s perfect. No one is sinless except for God. Period! Whether we sin so-called “small” sins or “big” sins we still sin and until we can accept that reality, we are not likely to seek God’s mercy in our lives. And if we don’t seek His mercy He can’t give us mercy, not because He doesn’t want to, but because we haven’t asked. God doesn’t force anything upon us, even mercy!

It was the Publican (the sinner) who said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18.13) And he was blessed by God. Great Lent is a period of intense spiritual preparation and discipline as both an offering to God and as a confession of our sinfulness. I invite you this year to assess your spiritual life and come to terms with your sinfulness. And then ask for mercy, and be blessed by God.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sometimes We Just Have to Put Away our Ego

When the Canaanite Woman begged the Lord for mercy, she was rebuffed by Christ. “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15.24) She was not of the house Israel, but she insisted on begging the Lord, saying, “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15.25) Again the Lord rebuffed her saying, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15.26) And still the woman did not retreat from her mission to obtain mercy from God.

When it comes to obtaining mercy from God, sometimes we need to show a little patience and humility. It would have been easier, in terms of her ego, for the woman to huff and puff and stomp her feet as she walked away, most likely complaining about how the Lord didn’t give her what she demanded. But her faith was stronger than her ego. Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” (Matthew 15.28) But what was her desire?

The woman desired mercy from God, nothing more, nothing less. She didn’t demand healing, nor did she demand special treatment from God, just mercy. What did God desire from her? He desired faith, faith strong enough to defeat her ego. The Lord knows everything, so why did He demand she be so humiliated publically? This was not for her salvation, but for our salvation. Knowing her faith, God allowed her to teach us that, sometimes we just have to put away our ego and allow our Faith to guide us.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What are You Doing with What God has Given You?

Each of us has received gifts from God for the glory of His Kingdom and the work of His Church. Many of us waste time, either in fear or selfishness, when we keep these gifts hidden from others. The servants who use the gifts God has given for the glory of God and the good of others are blessed by God and invited to “enter into the joy of the Lord,” in the Kingdom to come.  God has given YOU gifts and is waiting for YOU to do something good with those gifts. So……what are YOU doing with the gifts God has given you?



This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON and 7pm Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Did He Just Call Me a Sinner?

Jesus’ commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is more than just a commandment to treat others the same way we would treat ourselves. It is a challenge for us to see others as we see ourselves. In fact, we are called to see ourselves just as we see others, as sinners. The difficult part is to admit that, first and foremost, we are not better than anyone else; as Saint Paul teaches, we are all fallen short of the glory of God. If all fall short, then all are sinners. And if all are sinners, that includes us…



This Week’s Sermon also airs DAILY AT 12NOON and 7pm Eastern on Transfiguration Radio at or our mobile player at