#37 An Ancient Prayer for Modern Times

This prayer of the Byzantine rite (and Eastern Orthodox) is recited at all the daily liturgies in Lent.

The Prayer of St. Ephrem

Lord and Master of my life,
Spare me from the spirit of indifference, despair,
Lust for power and idle chatter. (prostration)

Instead, bestow on me, your servant,
The spirit of integrity, humility, patience and love. (prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King,
Let me see my own sins,
And not judge my brothers and sisters,
For you are blessed, forever and ever. Amen.
(prostration)

It amazes me how a prayer written around 400 AD can seem custom-made for the Facebook generation. Just like people throughout time, our generation struggles with pride, greed, envy, lust, and the like. But it seems to me that the many distractions of modern life make us even more vulnerable to some of the sins St. Ephrem mentions. At the very least, I know I am.

Indifference (or sloth) is the vice that makes it so much easier for me to click on “one more page” of a blog (*ahem*Catholicandenjoyingit*ahem*) than to send out job applications, do something considerate for my roommates, or stop by the chapel for daily Mass. There’s a constant stream of games, shows, and sites that we can turn to to hide from God and the world, and that self-isolation can lead a formerly faith-filled person to despair. There’s a loneliness in mass media and frivolous entertainment, an emptiness that crawls into my heart when I’m not paying attention and slowly starves the soul. Idle chatter is one of those things that doesn’t of its own accord, seem sinful, but whenever I prattle on long enough, I end up in gossip, half-truths, or uncharitable comments. So while I may consider idle chatter as more of a temptation to sin than a sin itself, I definitely think that considering the potential for sins of speech before a careless facebook post would be good for our souls and for the world.

After listing these oh-so-familiar sins, the next step in reciting the prayer is the first prostration. A prostration in the Byzantine rite involves kneeling down, lowering my head and kissing the floor. Touching my lips to the rug of our campus Byzantine chapel is a truly unusual and humbling experience. I love how physical a sign it is, how it quite literally embodies the virtues of humility and integrity.

On Good Friday, it’s traditional in my house to turn off entertainment like the radio and TV; we even avoid singing to ourselves (which is very, very difficult for me). Tuning out all those sources of noise really helped me tune in to the sacred events of today. While the season of St. Ephrem’s prayer at liturgy is coming to a close, I think I will carry on that prayer in my heart by making more “unplugged” time to think, pray, and relate to others meaningfully in a spirit of integrity, humility, patience, and love.

God bless you all this Good Friday and always!

“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

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About Cherie

I graduated from our alma mater once in 2009 and will be graduating again with a master’s this winter. I’ve worked my way through more majors than I care to explain, but my two biggest academic passions are education and science. I’ll probably post about each on occasion, though I’m hoping to focus on the spiritual side of things. I grew up rooted in the Catholic beliefs and traditions of an old-fashioned, over-sized Italian family, and came into my own understanding of God through charismatic prayer in my teens. I’m not as confidently Catholic lately as I used to be, so this blog will reflect my struggles and (God willing) successes in searching for a deeper, more adult understanding of my lifelong Faith.

Posted on April 6, 2012, in Lent. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Every time you post about the Byzantine church I realize how much I miss it 🙂 also it must have been really difficult to not sing to yourself! I basically went to bed singing…and it was one of the Byzantine hymns but I have no clue what it is called. It came from nowhere last night and this morning I tried to look it up listening to hymns in Slovak all morning and still have no clue LOL
    ❤ *z*

    • Now I’m curious which song, call me and we’ll figure it out! To be honest, I cheated on the “no singing” rule by singing a few hymns that are specifically about the crucifixion- I figured that’s not distracting from the Good Friday message, it’s reinforcing it! Then I had to stop because it was annoying my brother while he did his insanely difficult homework 😛

      • Haha I will call soon, today was ultra busy because my parents came home so I was cleaning and running errands, etc. 🙂 I think crucifixion-related songs are totally appropriate
        ❤ *z*

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