Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

I John 2:15-17 

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 purpose of college is to graduate with a degree that will enable one to go and get a job, earn a living and make a contribution to the world. Most advertising for college shows students smiling and socializing, not studying and stressing. Yet we know that to complete college, there is going to be a good amount of studying and stressing, and hopefully there will be time for smiling and socializing. The person who loves the smiling and socializing to the detriment of the studying is probably not going to do well in college. The person who loves studying and learning most likely will do well in college. The balanced student can do both.

In I John 2:15, we read Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Does this mean that we must hate the world? I personally don’t think so. However, we can’t love the things of this world to the detriment of loving the things of God, nor do we try to keep an even scoresheet, equal parts God and things of the world. There are things in the world that are bad. Every sin is bad. There is nothing wrong with loving the good things of this world, while seeking to avoid the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. (I John 2:16)

St. Ephraim the Syrian lived in the 4th century. He is notable for his writings, having written many hymns, poems and sermons. Perhaps he is best remembered for a short prayer that he wrote that is recited during Great Lent, known simply as the Prayer of St. Ephraim. It contains three short sentences. Traditionally, as each phrase of the prayer is offered, the clergy and faithful do a great metanoia, a physical gesture where one drops to their knees, places their hands on the floor and then bows their head to the floor before rising up. The word metanoia literally means a change in direction. Sometimes it is translated as repentance, because repentance involves a change in direction. The physical act of a metanoia requires a change in direction and physical orientation, from one that sees the whole world, to one in which one prostrates before God and is only able to see himself, with the idea that looking inwardly, we will be able to correct the things we are doing wrong and not be tempted to judge others. 

The first sentence of the prayer is 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.

Every prayer should begin with words of praise and acknowledgement of God. This one is no exception. The first short phrase of the prayer recognizes God as Lord and Master. Referring to God as Lord and Master places us as servant. He is not an advisor, to be consulted every so often. He is the leader. And He is not just the leader of components of our life, but of the whole thing. This is why we are supposed to love the things of the world that are congruent with God—appreciating the natural beauty of a sunset, or a sunrise, or the ocean; wholesome humor, fellowship with other people, and so many things that are in line with Him. We are not supposed to love the things that are incongruent with God, or that leads us away from His goodness. 

The first phrase of the prayer continues by asking God to not permit four specific things that take us away from Him, in other words, to steer us away from four specific temptations, four things that the world actually loves. First, the spirit of laziness or sloth. This is perhaps the greatest temptation, as well as the one we have easiest access to. We can’t overindulge in alcohol is we don’t have any. We can’t steal if we are sitting in our own home. However, we can be lazy anytime and in any place. Laziness requires nothing. Of course, we have phones and TVs, which while tools to aid in work and in relaxation, also provide easy temptation to overindulge and be lazy. 

The second temptation is meddling, or interfering. In trying to think of how we commit the sin of meddling, I keep coming back to the thought that the most common way of meddling or interfering in someone’s life is to take away their sense of peace, doing something intentionally or unintentionally that will increase their stress level. Being overly critical comes to mind. There’s plenty of opportunity to do that as a parent, and to a lesser extent, as a friend and a co-worker. 

The third temptation we want to avoid is the lust for power. Who doesn’t like power? We all prize freedom, and oftentimes, our pursuit of freedom gets lost in a pursuit of control. Whether one is a control freak or a micromanager, lust for power manifests itself in many ways. I love the phrase “let go, let God.” I find often that when I insert myself too much into something, it doesn’t go well. When I leave room for God to work, when I am patient, and sometimes when I completely give a situation to Him, I get a better outcome. I look back at my life, at missteps I have taken, and in each one, there was a lust for power and control, when I should have given more control over to the Lord. Lust for power in the world has caused the downfall of relationships, corporations, countries and empires. Just look back at history at tyrannical dictators, lost wars and so many other examples of bad people and bad decisions and the lust for power will be at the root of most of them.

The fourth temptation to avoid is idle talk, which means gossip. Idle talk or gossip is talk that has as its purpose the demise of someone else. Sharing good news about someone is not gossip, it is praise and admiration. Sharing bad news, or worse yet, making up bad news about someone is destructive. It doesn’t honor God, it doesn’t honor the person being gossiped about. And yet we all do it, and many of us do it often. Our mouths are supposed to be used for the praise of God and the building up of others. It is disturbing to think about how we can praise God in one minute and shortly after be speaking ill of someone else. Just thinking about my own mouth is disturbing. How can it be the mouth that leads worship and then engages in gossip or destructive speech? It simply doesn’t fit. That’s why gossip makes this list of what we might call “top four sins” highlighted in the Prayer of St. Ephraim. 

When you think about it critically, just about every sin I can think of relates to one of these four categories outlined in the prayer. By asking God to not allow these things to come into us, covers most of the sins we can commit. Before asking God to fill us with His goodness (notice that I mention His goodness and not just goodness, so that we aren’t tempted to be just good people instead of Godly people), we first ask Him to steer us away from sin and from the things that take us away from His goodness.   

Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me.
The end draws near, my soul, the end draws near; yet you do not care of make ready. The time grows short, rise up: the Judge is at the door. The days of our life pass swiftly, as a dram, as a flower. Why do we trouble ourselves in vain?
(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode Four, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Following Christ is not so much about hating life, but more about loving Him, which requires us to hate (avoid) the things that take us away from Him.


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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