Friday, February 19, 2010
E is for Ephraim’s Prayer: A Sinner’s Lenten Alphabet Continues
[Scroll down to previous posts to read about the letters A, B, C & D.]
Saint Ephraim was a great poet and father of the Syriac Church. Years ago a friend gave me a gift that I still treasure—St. Ephraim’s book, A Spiritual Psalter.
Later I got his wonderful Hymns on Paradise. Ephraim writes in isosyllabic verses called madrashe.
But sometimes he just beckons us to our knees with a few simple yet dynamic lines of heartfelt prayer, like this one, which has come to be known as the “Prayer of Saint Ephraim.” Orthodox Christians pray this prayer during their personal prayers at home during Great Lent, and it’s also part of most of the Lenten services of the Church. The Orthodox tradition is to do a prostration (bow to the ground on your knees and back up) or a metania (bow from the waist) after each line. A longer version is to also do twelve metanias at the end of the prayer, and then repeat the prayer again with only one prostration at the end. These are not rules, but spiritual traditions that aid in prayer. I find that sometimes when my mind/heart/nous is weary, my body can lead and my heart will follow. It’s not mindless repetition, but the spiritual and physical working together.
So, I’ll leave you with the prayer without commenting on its contents. I believe that if we pray, God will reveal what we need to learn from the words. (But some of St. Ephraim’s words might end up as “stars” in future post of the Lenten aphabet.)
The Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother; for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.