The following are reflections on the prayer of Saint Ephraim that I have come up with as I have been praying it during Lent:
“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth,”
After I thank God in the morning when I wake up, I need to struggle to pay. I even like to read and write a little first. I struggle to fast, as I want to eat until I am full. I like not working, though in the eyes of the world I am a hard worker. I also like doing nothing. I especially like to put off doing my taxes. After work, I don’t want to read the Scriptures or even speak to my wife all that much–I want to veg out and eat. I do not exercise as I should and even do not put the time into evangelism which would be proper for someone who is bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. I am slothful in all of these things and sinful.
I despair of ever changing my bad habits and wicked ways, as if it is not possible. More so, I have despair because of apprehension due to uncertain life circumstances, mostly job and marriage related. The despair comes from things which are outside of my control, that I cannot change or fix. When I do wrong, it appears to me that the repercussions are always much worse than what I did, so much so that I do not even understand it. I can easily look pass the wrongs I commit. All of this gives me a sense of despair.
“…lust of power…”
I don’t think of power per se. I do not really care if I run things. However, I do desire recognition for my work, whether at home or at work. I have a leadership position at both. The desire to simply lead has greatly dissipated, due to politics at work. Sometimes I do not desire power at all, I just want everyone else to do their job. Nevertheless, I am not completely free from such lust. I do not work purely for work’s sake and so this speaks of my pride.
“and idle talk.”
When our thoughts are not about Christ, they are elsewhere–we are constantly distracted from thinking about God. And so my thoughts are constantly elsewhere, as proven by my words. They are uncontrolled, to the point I tell everyone how I feel about everything. I am unable to remain silent. It does not feel like pride when I emote, but I am unsure what the root of this behavior is. My words are not few and I can scarcely control it.
“But give rather the spirit of…”
It is so important that I am asking God for the spirit of so many virtues. I cannot sum the energy up, the will nor the desire, within myself to do what I ought to do. I am literally a moral cripple. Every day I seek not to speak idly, yet I waste my words. Every day I seek to hallow God in my heart, yet I distract myself and am bored of God. I want to daydream about other things. The scary part is that I desire these virtues, which is why I pray for them, but I cannot do what I desire. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” I know my salvation from this is through Jesus Christ, but yet my body lags behind my mind, and even sometimes my mind against my own conscience. I have no recourse, due to my condition, other than to seek the mercy of God.
On one hand, chastity is not a problem for me. Not because it cannot be, but because of God’s mercy to me. My thoughts are occupied elsewhere and I constantly avoid wayward glances. However, I still have concupiscence. I am constantly under threat of breaking my discipline and so my hollow shell can easily crack if God does not constantly maintain it from cracking open. Sometimes, that shell does crack so I have reason for this petition.
I am very proud. I feel as if I am more strict than others with ascetic discipline, money, my thought life, and many of my actions. But, I have nearly no control over my temperament nor my tongue. “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (James 3:6). The knowledge is there to be humble, but not the will nor quite frankly the memory. This means, I forget God and righteousness as I slip into old habits and ways of thinking.
I am impatient. I operate under the constant fear that if I am not getting what I need as soon as possible, I’m not operating as efficiently as possible and therefore I am not serving my purpose. This is a big problem for me, as efficiency and work are good, but the anxiety that creates impatience is bad. I reflexively fall into it and I think it is because of the fear that something bad will happen unless I get something done as soon as possible. Obviously, this is me trusting in myself and not God. Patience shows trust in God.
“…and love to Thy servant.”
I need to ask God for a spirit of love, so that I may serve Him and others and not myself. My affections need to be for Him and others and not what is good for me. I have certainly made decisions which were for my own good, or my family’s, and have disregarded others. Especially my latest promotion. Even now, I am still not sure if I would have taken the position or not, my reasoning being the long term benefit to my family (and not myself specifically). May God give me greater love where I will make no compromises, presuming I am not hasty or proud.
“Yea, O Lord and King…”
Is God my Lord? Is He my King? Obviously yes. But am I His subject, as in, am I subjecting myself to my Lord and King? Am I taking captive every thought for Him? So often, no. So many of my decisions have been predicated upon my subjection being to myself. At other times I am simply ignorant and do not know the will of the Lord and King.
“…grant me to see my own transgressions…”
Like the disciples who could not recognize the risen Christ because God withheld sight from their eyes, my sight of my own transgressions is obscured unless God gives me eyes to see. I often do not see my own failings, not from want of desire of such a thing, but rather due to simple ignorance. I often sit and try to think of what I have done, but I just do not know. The Scripture says that we are to ask for wisdom from God. To know our transgressions so we may repent should be chief among the things we should be asking for. Yet, often I do not ask, because I simply do not take my transgressions seriously enough. This, itself, is a transgression.
“…and not to judge my brother…”,
It is easy to see the sins others commit and tell ourselves that I am good because I do not commit the same. To be honest, I do not dwell on this much, though I often feel personally betrayed by those who wrong me. I have not so much anger and resentment, but fear of those people. I am aware not all of this “judgement” is that of self-righteousness, and I know I am getting better at validating the actions of those who wrong me. But, the fact that I am “getting better” means I still judge them and do not always validate them.
“…for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”
God is God, He is above all things, but is He blessed in my heart? Definitely not always. I forget this very prayer several nights during Lent. And, I am to bless Him onto ages of ages? An eternity? Not in the state that I am now. So, I ask now for His mercy–an end to my laziness, tiredness, and forgetfulness. All of these things distract me from worshiping God as I ought. May He have mercy on my soul for He is good. Amen.