The supplicant effectively asks God to lighten their burden cf.
Saint Ephrem | St. Ephrems Indian Orthodox Congregation Columbus Ohio
The Slavonic text, however, could be read as asking God to replace one kind of spirit or breath with another, with the implication that the first kind of spirit line 1 does not come from God to begin with. This could lead to a dualist reading of the prayer, opposing the unvirtuous 'spirit of man' to the virtuous 'spirit of God. A third minor difference is the transposition of terms in the first line. It seems likely that the differences between the Greek and Slavonic texts reflect the fact that the Slavonic text was prepared from a different Greek text than the one currently used, but this has yet to be demonstrated definitively.
This Slavonic version was superseded in the Russia Orthodox Church in , following the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon , but remains in use among the Old Believers today. O Lord and Master of my life, take from me a spirit of despondency, sloth, love of power, and idle talk.
Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. It retains most of the distinctive differences that the earlier version has from the Greek, with none of the more drastic changes that may be found in the next version. This version was once used throughout the Kievan metropolia, as well as in the Orthodox Churches of Central Europe Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and so on , but later dropped out of use, and the next version adopted.
This is the version found in the editions of the liturgical books published in by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow. An English version of the Prayer of St Ephrem commonly in use in the Orthodox Church in America which inherited its liturgical practices from the Slavic tradition maintains the distinction between take from me line 1 and give to me line 2 that was eliminated in the Slavonic translation. At weekday services during Great Lent, the prayer is prescribed for each of the canonical hours and at the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim
During the period of the Triodion , the prayer is first recited on Wednesday and Friday only on Cheesefare week and thereafter at every weekday service from vespers on the evening of the Sunday of Forgiveness , the service which begins Great Lent, through Wednesday of Holy Week. The prayer is not said on Saturdays and Sundays vespers on Sunday evening is of Monday, since the Byzantine liturgical day begins at sunset , because these days are not strict fasting days oil and wine are always permitted.
This means that the weekends retain a festal character, even during the Great Fast, and the Divine Liturgy may be celebrated as usual. During the Nativity Fast , Dormition Fast and the Apostles' Fast , the lenten order of services may be used when the divine liturgy is not celebrated.
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The second phrase of the prayer asks God instead to give us virtuous things to counteract our desire for the passions— prudence, humility, patience and love. We want to cultivate in ourselves prudence, or wisdom. We want to be humble, rather than exalted. We need to be patient and not angry.
And when we put others first in a spirit of love, then we will find the cure to the passions. The third phrase reminds us of the mistake of the Pharisee in the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, and the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Saint Ephrem, the Poet Theologian
Repentance is not a competition amongst brethren where some are judged better than others. During or after each phrase of the prayer, one gets on his knees, places his palms or fists on the floor and touches his forehead to the floor. Then he stands fully upright again. This is done two additional times.
What is the point of the prostration? Which is, we look inwardly. When you are doing a prostration, it is impossible to see anyone else but yourself. When repenting, we are supposed to look at our own faults, not the faults of others.
- Common Prayers - Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem - Orthodox Church in America.
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Secondly, we are bowing down to God, putting ourselves to the lowest level possible, before His awesome power to forgive and accept us. In offering the prostration, we are offering the humility of the Publican and the repentance of the Prodigal Son. Jesus warns us against heaping up empty phrases in prayer.
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A prayer is not good because it is long but because it is sincere. You can offer a few words with a repentant heart and this is a good prayer. The prayer of St. Ephraim is concise—it captures the spirit of Great Lent in a few short phrases.