The Prayer of St. Ephraim

The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ

I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4: 1-3

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

The “preeminent prayer”, if we were to coin such a phrase, for Lent is the Prayer of St. Ephraim.  This prayer is used during all the weekday Lenten services.  Saint Ephraim lived in the fourth century.  He died in 373.  It is likely that the prayer was not written by St. Ephraim himself, but probably composed by one of his “disciples” in the century that followed his death.  It reads as follows:

O Lord and Master of my life, do not permit the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and idle talk to come into me.

Instead, grant me, your servant, the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love.

Yes, Lord and King, give me the power to see my own faults, and not to judge my brother.

For You are blessed unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

(Translation by Holy Cross School of Theology)

This prayer most accurately sums up the themes of Lent.  It asks God to steer us away from bad things—the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and idle talk.  If Lent is supposed to help us gain control of our passions, which is the chief reason we fast, the prayer mentions four passions that confront us on a daily basis—laziness, meddling in the affairs of others, a desire for power (and greed and ego) and gossip.

The second phrase of the prayer asks God instead to give us virtuous things to counteract our desire for the passions—prudence, humility, patience and love.  We want to cultivate in ourselves prudence, or wisdom.  We want to be humble, rather than exalted.  We need to be patient and not angry.  And when we put others first in a spirit of love, then we will find the cure to the passions.

The third phrase reminds us of the mistake of the Pharisee in the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, and the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Repentance is not a competition amongst brethren where some are judged better than others.  Repentance is identifying one’s own faults so that he can grow closer to God.

This prayer is often accompanied by three “great” metanoias or prostrations.  During or after each phrase of the prayer, one gets on his knees, places his palms (or fists) on the floor and touches his forehead to the floor.  Then he stands fully upright again.  This is done two additional times.

What is the point of the prostration?  It puts us in the “orientation” of repentance.  Which is, we look inwardly.  When you are doing a prostration, it is impossible to see anyone else but yourself.  When repenting, we are supposed to look at our own faults, not the faults of others.  Secondly, we are bowing down to God, putting ourselves to the lowest level possible, before His awesome power to forgive and accept us.  In offering the prostration, we are offering the humility of the Publican and the repentance of the Prodigal Son.

Jesus warns us against heaping up empty phrases in prayer.  A prayer is not good because it is long but because it is sincere.  You can offer a few words with a repentant heart and this is a good prayer.  The prayer of St. Ephraim is concise—it captures the spirit of Great Lent in a few short phrases.  This prayer should be offered at least once a day during Great Lent.

O Lord and Master of my life, do not permit the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and idle talk to come into me.

Instead, grant me, your servant, the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love.

Yes, Lord and King, give me the power to see my own faults, and not to judge my brother.

For You are blessed unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

Pray the prayer of St. Ephraim today (and every day of Lent)!

 

+Fr. Stavros

 

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Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John…
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