Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Why We Pray?

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"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:13-14).

In the life of the true Christians, prayer is the most essential part of their daily life. With prayer they can raise their spiritual life to reach God according to His grace and become one in Him.

We pray for the safety of our nation, our children, and the little things such as good grades, successful careers, and cure from diseases, protection, etc. and that is okay because God loves to hear and listen to His children's concerns.

But are all these material prayers really what God expects from His beloved children or is there something we are missing when we pray?

Are we occupied with our needs or are we tuned to the needs of others?

Can someone who is focused on himself and be tuned to God's needs?

Great things come when we pray, mountains will be moved, the sea will open, the rock will gush with water, and the multitude will be filled with many blessings.

But! What is the ultimate goal for praying?

"When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty" (Acts 27:13-16).

When we are sure of ourselves and our abilities, do we still pray and give thanks? Or do we keep the prayer for the hard tasks only?

The people on the ship were not paying attention to what is going on although St. Paul advised them not to sail yet. Despite the sign of the unpredictable weather they were sure of themselves and their abilities. But in the middle of the sea they started to realize how strong the storm and how weak their abilities to control the ship and their destiny.

"When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up" (Acts 27:17-20).

Looking at what was happening in the world and sweeping the whole world, we can identify with these simple verses. We were too busy and too occupied with our life to pay attention to what is coming until it hits us in the face and we lost control. We are no longer able to predict our future. We are so blind to all that is happening. We are tuned to the box "TV" for twenty four hours trying to understand what is going on and what the future holds. As we still are able to figure it out and control it.

All hope that we would be saved was finally given up. Harsh sentence no way out, our mind cannot figure out what to do. Now that we lost control we have only one way. To listen to the voice of the one who knows.

Why is it St. Paul knows but others cannot?

The reason is because St. Paul is full of love, faith, and trust in God. He has refined ears and spiritual vision that can see God's hands and plans in all that is happening. And he is able to guide the people in the time when everyone lost hope.

"But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.'" (Acts 27:21).

How many times we hear God's voice throughout our daily life and still ignore it and go on with our lives until something happens then we start crying and praying. Lately since January 25, 2010, we have been worried, running to churches and meetings, and praying diligently, but recently people thought their prayers had paid off and God was finally listening to their request. Many got very sad and disappointed, why?

They did not ask for God's will, plan, and wisdom in their lives. But instead they request and demand their own way to come, and ended up disappointed, and miserable.

"And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve" (Acts 27:22-23).

Two important facts were mentioned here; that I belong to God and I serve Him not vice versa. We are only here on earth for one ultimate reason which is to reach heaven. We are here to pray for each other's safe return to God. Our souls are very precious to Him. He is waiting for His children to be perceptive to Him and do it with love and delight.

"For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.'" (Acts 27:23-24).

Finally everyone tuned in and listened to St. Paul, he was the only hope that sprang from nowhere to save them, comfort them, and guide them to see the hand of God in the midst of the storm.

"Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island" (Acts 27:25-26).

How can we ask people in the midst of the storm to take heart and rejoice too and to trust I do believe that the person who is speaking these words must have the ability to move the people's heart and give them a degree of hope, to be able to start to trust again and start to see the possibility of finding a land. And that required from him to be filled with the Holy Spirit and have great faith in God's abilities.

"And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, 'Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.'" (Acts 27:33-34).

Beautiful words give more assurance to the hungry for words of hope and reflect the strength of St. Paul that was given to Him by God to help him insert hope in the hearts of this group of people after all they went through.

"And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat" (Acts 27:35).

A great attribute to God to the one whom they trust even though they had not been saved yet, they shared in fellowship with each other and thanked Him for what He had done to bring them to this moment.

"Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible" (Acts 27:36-39).

Now they all became one concerning about each other's safety and they were filled with calmness and no longer worried, because they trusted that they all are ready to get out from the ship to a safe place.

"And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves" (Acts 27:40-41).

They got busy working together for the safety of everyone on board.

"And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land" (Acts 27:42-44).

With every one's cooperation and determination that all be saved they made it to safety.

Finally; no matter how life becomes unpredictable, stormy, and full of loop holes we can defeat it with our weapon. The Holy Bible is our weapon to reach the shore and to invite others to safety. Without it we will be tossed left and right with no aim and no goal to reach. Our own protection will not come from just ourselves alone. The secret that is going to save us will only be by praying for others and giving our promise to God to be faithful no matter what the outcome and to serve Him with joy and love.

Written by
Nagwa Abdou

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