O Lord and Master of my life...

The ?Prayer of St Ephrem¦ is ubiquitous during Great Lent, and is used
in all weekday services, and in prayers at home. 

This prayer is much like the ?Our Father¦, in the following way. When
the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He told them to
?pray in this way¦, and then recited the ?Our Father¦, thus giving us a
model for how to pray and a prayer which perfectly fulfilled these
principles. So should we treat the prayer of St Ephrem. Its content is
truly sublime, and teaches us the right way to approach God in prayer,
how to think of ourselves, and what to ask for. It also is a perfect
prayer fulfilling these principles. 

Everyone should say this prayer daily during the week in Great Lent.
Because of the  physical way in which we say this prayer (it is done
with bows and prostrations), it has the remarkable ability to put the
soul in the right frame of mind.  One might even go so far to say that
if the Prayer of St Ephrem has been prayed with attention at least once
during the day,  and nothing else has been done, the Christian has
prayed well.

The reality of our scattered, busy, distracted and often lazy lives is
that we do not pray often enough, or with enough attention, or in the
proper frame of mind. If a person is consistent in praying the prayer of
St Ephrem, no matter how well he does in other prayer and spiritual
reading, he has a ?life line¦ and is grounded in the most important
aspects of the way a Christian should conduct himself during Lent. 

Of course, to just pray the prayer of St Ephrem is NOT enough for a
Christian, but a pastor must prescribe ?baby steps for baby feet¦ We all
are in some measure ?babies¦, and all of us should pray this prayer,
attentively, and carefully, without fail. The person who takes this
advice to ?come and see¦ will soon find the fruit of this practice. 

The prayer of St Ephrem is found in any complete Orthodox prayer book.
For instance, the ?Jordanville prayer book¦ has this prayer in its
Triodion section (page 166 in the latest printing).   HYPERLINK
"http://www.orthodox.net/" Our websit e has it in English and Slavonic
with 4 sections per page so it can be printed, cut in quarters and
inserted in a prayer book, in   HYPERLINK
"http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/of-ephraim-the-syrian.rtf" RTF  and  
HYPERLINK "http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/of-ephraim-the-syrian.pdf"
PDF  formats.  It is part of  a dedicated page containing information
about our   HYPERLINK "http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/" Theology,
Homilies, Services, and other Resources about Great Lent. 

Other resources for this prayer include a   HYPERLINK
2008-04-02+prayer-of-st.-ephrem.mp3" catechetical talk about the prayer
of St Ephrem . 

Like anything worth doing, the prayer of St Ephrem takes some practice
before we can receive the full benefit. There are bows AND prostrations
during the prayer, and a certain number of repetitions. To someone who
is accustomed to this prayer, the physical actions and specific
repetitions free the mind and penetrate the soul. This can only be
understood if it is done, else, a person will consider the prayer to be
too complicated, or worse, an example of ?vain repetition¦, which the
scripture forbids. He who has ears to hear, and mouth to speak, arms to
make the sign of the cross, and knees to bend, let him understand! 

The prayer of St Ephrem is said two different ways in church. The best
way to say it at home is the ?longer¦ way, twice a day, in morning and
evening prayers. If a person only prayers in the morning, than once. If
both times, then twice. If a person is not organized or motivated enough
to say formal morning of evening prayers, at least this prayer can be
said. As my father used to say, Once or twice, but never ?nunce¦!

This is the ?long way¦. 

The prayer is said two times, one time in parts, and the last time in
full. After each part, or the entire prayer, a prostration is made. In
between the two ?O God cleanse me a sinner¦ is said twelve times, with a
bow each time. This is easy to remember after doing it a few times.  Two
prayers, four prostrations, twelve bows (and 100 calories burned). 

?O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency,
ambition, and idle talking give me not.? 


?But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love
bestow upon me Thy servant.? 


?Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my
brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.? 


Then, twelve repetitions of: 

?O God, cleanse me a sinner.¦  


And then repeat the entire prayer all at once: 

?O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency,
ambition, and idle talking give me not. But rather a spirit of chastity,
humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant. Yea, O
Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother;
for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.¦


A Prostration is a full bow to the ground with the knees touching the
ground, and the head touching or near the ground, then immediately
standing back up. As the bow to the ground is begun, the sign of the
cross is made. Some people touch their knees to the ground first and
then bend their upper body down, and the more athletic or coordinated
essentially ?fall¦ forward to the ground  with their knees and hands
touching at essentially the same time. This is very similar to the
familiar gym class ?burpee¦.

A Bow, also known as a ?reverence¦ or ?Poklon¦ is when the sign of the
cross is made, while simultaneously bowing the head by bending at the
waist. Some bow deeply and touch the ground with their right hand, and
other make very shallow bows. It really does not matter as long as the
movement is done with attention. 

Something NOT TO DO: No ?waving at the air¦. Some do prostrations and
bows quickly or carelessly, and the sign of the cross they make looks
like they are shooing away a fly. ?Let all things be done in good

The author has many fond memories of saying this prayer way back when,
when a layman, especially in church, or with his children. The church
would be dark, and lit only by candles, the priest standing in front of
the royal doors. It would be very quiet, and only his voice and
?swishing¦ sounds from the prostrations or bows would be heard.
Everybody would be doing the same thing at once; this was always a
profoundly holy moment and I remember thinking sometimes that I wish I
would always be in this state of mind.  There was a feeling that
something profoundly good and important was happening. A mixture of
sorrow for my personal condition and great hope in God that I really
would get better sometime, would flood my soul. Many times I would even
feel warmth. With the sublime, was always mixed ?real life¦ v sounds of
grunts, heavy breathing, the sights of children making very creative
prostrations.  When I had to say the Trisagion prayers immediately
after, I would sometimes struggle to say them without betraying that I
was out of breath! 

Parents: say this prayer with your children! I know, it is sometimes a
?circus¦, but where are they going to learn piety is not from you.
Prayer is not always neat and pretty with children, but you will be glad
you went to the trouble. 

In another post, we will look at some of the profound theology in this

Here is the most important ?take home¦ point: SAY THIS PRAYER EVERY

This document is available at   HYPERLINK
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f-st-ephrem-01.doc" DOC  or  HYPERLINK
f-st-ephrem-01.pdf" PDF format .