By Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3
The word for “prayer” in Greek is “Prosefhi,” which literally means “to” or “toward” (pros) a “blessing” (efhi). So, one way to look at prayer is that it involves receiving the blessing of God over a person, an activity, a day, etc.
One way to explain the concept of “prosefhi” is to relate it to when a Hierarch (bishop) celebrates the Divine Liturgy in an Orthodox Church. When the bishop comes, there will be at least one priest (the parish priest) and oftentimes many other priests who serve with him at the Divine Liturgy. Before each priest offers a line of the Liturgy, he will “take a blessing” from the Bishop to say or do the line or action of the Liturgy that he will say or do. Oftentimes, he will also “take a blessing” after each line or action. The “taking of a blessing” involves bowing toward the bishop and the bishop acknowledging the asking of a blessing by blessing the priest with his hand.
Now, for those who have seen a Divine Liturgy with the bishop, this idea of a blessing for EACH LINE of the Liturgy may seem a little bit ridiculous or over the top. But there is actually a reason for it and it provides a good metaphor for how to set up our lives in a prayerful way. The reason for all of this bowing and blessing is to preserve good order in the service. If there are many priests serving along with the bishop, the receiving of a blessing helps avoid two priests saying the same line at the same time, or for there to be awkward silence as the clergy figure out who is going to off the next petition or prayer. When the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (Liturgy with the bishop) is done right, with this dance of bowing and blessing being done correctly, the service takes on an almost majestic tone. When it is not done right, it looks very choppy and the many clergy become a distraction.
This idea of bowing and blessing provides a good metaphor for a good Christian life and a solid prayer life. Imagine if we “took a blessing” from God before and after each activity of our lives. In other words, imagine what life would be like if we offered a short prayer asking for God’s blessing before each activity we do. We do easily 20-30 activities a day. For instance, we wake up, we eat breakfast, we get in a car to go somewhere, we arrive where we are going, we begin tasks, we end tasks, we have conversations and interactions with others, we have lunch, we get in the car to go home, we arrive home, we have dinner, and we go to bed. That’s thirteen things at a minimum we ALL do just about every day. Imagine what would happen if we “took a blessing” from God before and after each of these activities. I’m not suggesting that each activity be preceded by ten minutes of prayer. Offering a quick prayer for 30 seconds before and after driving, before and after working, before and after eating, before and after each activity, this will have us in prayer for at least twenty minutes a day. It will also have us doing each activity that we are doing under the “umbrella” of God and of prayer. That doesn’t mean we are not going to make some mistakes each day. Mistakes, intentional or unintentional are part of every day. That’s part of our human condition. However, we’re less likely to drive like maniacs if we ask God to bless us before we drive. We are less likely to mouth off to a co-worker if we ask God to bless us before a difficult conversation. Doing everything under the umbrella of God will help us keep things in “good spiritual order.”
“Prosefhi” means “towards a blessing.” In prayer, we go to God for His blessings over our activities and over our lives in general. And just as with the Bishop at the Divine Liturgy, going to the Lord often will keep us with a good sense of spiritual order, and will keep us more focused and less chaotic. Again, going back to the example of the bishop, imagine him serving with twenty priests and no one asking for a blessing. The service is much more likely to be without order and chaotic. It’s the same thing with a life that has no prayer. It is much more likely to be without order and chaotic thank the life that has prayer and Christ as its center and focus.
The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Go to God for a blessing with a “prosefhi” (prayer) before every action and decision of your day and see what happens!
~Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Tampa, FL, http://greekorthodoxchurchtampa.com/.