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The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem 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.

Of all the Lenten hymns and prayers, one short prayer can be termed the Lenten prayer.  Tradition ascribes it to one of the great teachers of spiritual life - St. Ephrem the Syrian.

This prayer is read twice at the end of each lenten service Monday through Friday (not on Saturdays and Sundays for, as we shall see later, the services of these days do not follow the lenten pattern).  At the first reading, a prostration follows each petition.  Then we all bow twelve times saying:   "O God, cleanse me a sinner."  The entire prayer is repeated with one final prostration at the end.

Why does this short and simple prayer occupy such an important position in the entire lenten worship?  Because it enumerates in a unique way all the negative and positive elements of repentance and constitutes, so to speak, a "check list" for our individual lenten effort.  This effort is aimed first at our liberation from some fundamental spiritual diseases which shape our life and make it virtually impossible for us even to start turning ourselves to God.

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