A Prayer for Those Who are Suffering or in Anguish

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Going through old papers which I saved over the last 40 years, I rediscovered this prayer attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian in a folder. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where the prayer came from, but share it for all who may be in need of just such a prayer – those being crushed by their own failures, mistakes, sins and sense of sinfulness. The prayer makes several references to the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32, the text of which I have included at the bottom of this post just for reference.

I find this prayer a good balance or alternative to those prayers and piety which make us into nothing but a dung worm deserving being squashed by God before being tossed into hell. It is a prayer intending to comfort and give hope like we find in the Akathist: Glory to God for All Things: “No one can put together what has crumbled into dust, but You, Lord, can restore a conscience turned to ashes. You can restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope. With You, there is nothing that cannot be redeemed. You are love; You are Creator and Redeemer. We praise You, singing: Alleluia!”

St Ephrem’s Prayer for Those Who are Suffering or in Anguish

Do not lose heart, O soul, do not grieve. Pronounce not over yourself a final judgement for the multitude of your sins. Do not commit yourself to fire. Do not say the Lord has cast me from His face. Such words are not pleasing to God. Can it be that one who is fallen cannot get up? Can it be that he who is turned away cannot turn back again? Do you not hear how kind the father is to a prodigal? Do not be ashamed to turn back and say boldly, “I will arise and go to my father.” Arise, and go!   He will accept you and not reproach you but rather rejoice at your return. He awaits you, just do not be ashamed and do not hide from the face of God as Adam did.

It was for your sake that Christ was crucified. So will he cast you aside? He knows who oppresses us. He knows that we have no other help but him alone. Christ knows that man is miserable. Do not give yourself up in despair and apathy assuming that you have been prepared for the fire. Christ derives no consolation from thrusting us into the fire. He gains nothing if He sends us into the abyss to be tormented. Imitate the prodigal son – leave the city that starves you. Come and beseech Him and you shall behold the glory of God. Your face shall be enlightened and you will rejoice in the sweetness of Paradise. Glory to the Lord and lover of mankind who saves us!   Amen.

Then the Lord told this parable:

“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in.

Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. ‘But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ “ (Luke 15:11-32)

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Fr. Ted Bobosh


Used with permission.
Joshua9/23/2019 12:56 pm
Had an audio clip of this saved on my computer and uploaded it if anyone is interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c94g8ZY8BNo
Rdr Andreas Moran1/2/2019 3:51 am
This prayer shows how the same teaching forms a golden chain of hope down all the centuries since Christ told the parable, through the Fathers such as St Ephrem, down to St Silouan to whom – and so to us - the Lord gave the words, ‘Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not’. We must ‘leave the city’ (ie the world) and by acceptance of suffering and by voluntary self-condemnation and descent, go ‘by the narrow path of Christ’ (as St Ephrem puts it elsewhere); as St John Chrysostom puts it, ‘pass judgment on thyself, exact thine own penalty'. So then the Lord will grant us to ascend and we indeed ‘will rejoice in the sweetness of Paradise’. With such an assurance, we shall not despair.
Anthony1/1/2019 11:05 am
Thank you beloved Father Theodore! I greet you for the civil new year! I found St Ephraim's whole spiritual psalter online for the beloved brethren - https://www.stnicholasoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/spiritual-psalter-or-reflections-on-god-ephraim-the-syrian.pdf

I don't know about you guys, but my favourite prayer of repentance is St Basil's http://www.orthodox.net/confess/lament.html
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