Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

I Corinthians 13:4-8 

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 to the ages of ages. Amen.
(Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes, as found on AGES Digital Chant Stand of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, throughout the services of Great Compline and the Ninth Hour of Great Lent)

The first phrase of the Prayer of St. Ephraim asks the Lord to take away four things that lead us to sin, and in many ways, are the root causes of sin. The second prayer asks God to replace those things with four positive things:

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

The first phrase of the prayer affirms God as “Lord and Master.” The second phrase affirms our appropriate relationship with the Lord, which is as servant, who does the will of God. 

The first of four God-like virtues we ask for is prudence, or wisdom. To be prudent means to make wise and thoughtful choices. So many sins come about as a result of not thinking but rather reacting. When we think things out, especially in concert with the thinking of God, we probably wouldn’t make many of the mistakes we make. Often, we think of actions and not consequences. We react too quickly instead of thinking how this decision might play out down the line. In asking for wisdom, we are asking God to slow down our thinking, to give us eyes to see all the possibilities, both good and bad, that might come from making a decision. 

The second God-like quality we ask for is humility. Jesus says in Luke 18:14, that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Humility paves the way to exaltation in the eyes of God. Humility is focused inwardly. Earthly exaltation is focused outwardly. Exaltation relates to how we stand compared to others. To exalt ourselves means to put our self ahead of others, to see our self as better than others. To be humble does not mean to be self-deprecating and hate ourselves, but it means to put ourselves in relationship to God, to realize how far we have to go, and not so much how far we’ve come. We should hope for the eternal exaltation from God, rather than the temporary exaltation over others. Humility helps us to look inwardly, which aids us in repentance and a desire to grow closer to God.

The third God-like quality we ask for is patience. As we will discuss in the next paragraph about love, the first quality of love is that it is patient. In the moments we lose patience, we are not loving. If God was not patient with us, we would stand no chance before Him. We commit so many sins, we do so many things that dishonor Him, the only way that anyone could end up in the Kingdom of God is because of His mercy and grace, manifested in His patience with us. Our ability to forgive others is also based on patience. Self-control in many ways is based on patience. We often achieve success by steamrolling through other people. Giving each person some room in which to operate is also based on patience. And if there is one thing people consistently talk about losing, it is patience. 

And the fourth God-like quality mentioned in the prayer is love. The greatest commandments God has given us involve love—loving God and loving our neighbor. Saint Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13:1-3, that if we have power, knowledge and even generosity, if we do not have love we have nothing and we’ve accomplished nothing. I John 4:18 says There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear. Fear and love cannot co-exist. Sin is failure to love. Love and sin cannot co-exist. In I Corinthians 13:4-8, St. Paul talks about love, defining it as patient, kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rule, not selfish, irritable or resentful. He writes that love is optimistic, hopeful and enduring. In asking for love, we are asking for all of these things.

One of the reasons this prayer is so beautiful is that it captures so much with so few words. It also ask both for God to steer us away from things that are sinful while steering us towards things that will bring us closer to Him.

Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me.
Awake, my soul, consider the actions which you have done; set them before your eyes, and let the drops of your tears fall. With boldness tell Christ of your deeds and thoughts, and so be justified.
(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode Four, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

The Prayer of St. Ephraim is not just about forsaking evil and seeking what is good. It is about the battle against temptation and for God. It is about forsaking what is sinful and working towards what is holy.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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