Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
I Corinthians 16:13-14
Lord our God, having shaken off the sluggishness of sleep and called us together by a holy call, to lift up our hands even at night and confess Your righteous judgments, accept our prayers, our petitions, our confessions, our night worship, and grant us, O God, invincible faith, a sure hope, unfeigned love. Bless our comings and goings, our actions, our deeds, our words, our thoughts, and grant that we may come to the dawning of the day praising, singing and blessing the bounty of Your inexpressible goodness. For blessed is Your all-holy name and glorified is Your Kingdom, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
(Adapted from the Translation by Narthex Press of the 12 Orthros Prayers)
There are twelve prayers that a priest offers during the Orthros (Matins) service which are never heard aloud. Each has a theme that sets the tone for the day. I don’t think there is anything wrong with me sharing these prayers or for anyone to pray them. I enjoy sharing thoughts about faith and about Christ each day, as well as giving you occasional insights into the priesthood. I hope the reflections on these prayers will give all of us something to think and add to our spiritual journeys. I’m changing the format of the Prayer Team for these reflections—both the scripture verse and the prayer will precede the reflection for this unit.
We are reminded every day that the words “sure” and “invincible” are almost silly words to have in the English language. As I’m writing this message, a hurricane is making its way into the Gulf of Mexico and one possible (probable?) landing place is Tampa Bay, where I live and serve. Is it a “sure thing” you’ll get the Prayer Team the rest of this week? Not if we don’t have power. That’s because the power grid isn’t “invincible.” There are lots of things that are on the church calendar this week, including a wedding scheduled for this Saturday. Is that a “sure thing”? There certainly didn’t seem to be any doubt when we scheduled it a few months ago, or when I met with the couple recently. Now it’s a “wait and see” what happens this week. We are also reminded that we are not invincible each time we get sick, or when we go to a funeral.
We’ve all heard the saying “nothing is for sure except death and taxes.” However, as Christians, we can add the word “hope” to that. We have a sure hope in the Resurrection of Christ and in our personal resurrection when we die, if we do one thing—if we have invincible faith. We need an invincible faith, not a lukewarm faith. We need a faith that will stand the test of time, challenge, hardship, even tragedy. And so, in this 8th prayer of the 12 Orthros prayers we are reflecting on, we pray for invincible faith and a sure hope. I know that I have prayed many times to have hope, especially in bleak circumstances. I’m praying right now for my home, my parish, my possessions and the homes and possessions of others to be safe. I’m praying that our hopes for safe passage of this storm come to pass. This is a natural human tendency. I’d be lying if I said I’m wondering as I’m leaving church today, if my books, office equipment, vestments and other personal items will all be intact when I come back. I have hope that some of our heavy things outside, like the trash dumpster won’t become projectiles. I even have reasonable hope about that, just not sure hope.
The sure hope is that no matter what happens and what it costs me, it can’t cost me my salvation as long as my faith remains invincible. So, appropriately, now I’m praying for invincible faith. A projectile might destroy a few windows, heavy wind might sabotage a roof, and flooding might ruin a building, or at least it’s floor. However, no hurricane, no matter how strong, and no crisis, not matter how big, can destroy faith if we don’t let it. Because faith can be invincible. And that’s what this prayer is asking for. For our faith to hold up, regardless of the strength of the storms of life, and for our hope in Christ to remain unflinching even in the face of struggle.
This prayer asks God to bless our comings and goings, regardless of what they are today. For the next couple of days, I may only come and go from the rooms in my house, but may even those be blessed. It continues to ask God to bless our actions, our deeds, our words, even our thoughts. Even under duress, we still want all of these things to be done in a way that honors God. The prayer uses the phrase “the bounty of Your inexpressible goodness.” It’s really hard to relate to that, especially when life throw a few curve balls at us. But that’s what invincible faith does. It allows us to see God’s bounty as inexpressible, inexhaustible, and infinite even on the tough days. And seeing these things is what helps us maintain our “sure hope” in God and in the heavenly reward He has promised.
I Corinthians 16:13-14 is a great motto that pairs well with this prayer: “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” And this should apply whether we are spending a day in the hospital or a day at the beach, whether we are staring down the eye of a hurricane, an important decision, or a day of leisure.
Encouragement for today: Take an attitude that no matter what happens today, that you won’t let it shake your faith, and if your faith is unshaken, your hope will stand sure as well.