Elder Sophrony of Essex , disciple of St. Silouan the Athonite
Words of Eternal Life
Often the best method is to stay our minds on the ‘good pleasure of the Father’s will’ (cp. Eph. 1.5) for us. To conduct our lives fittingly, it is of cardinal importance to know that before the very creation of the world we were intended to be perfect. To belittle God’s initial idea for us is not just mistaken: it is a sin. Because we do not see in ourselves, and still less in our fellow men, any permanent virtue, we behave towards each other like jungle beasts….It is sad to see that hardly anyone perceives what the genuine, divinely royal freedom of ‘sons of God’ consists in. Intense prayer can so transport both heart and mind, in their urgent desire for the eternal, that the past fades into oblivion and there is no thought of any earthly future- the whole inner attention is concentrated on the one interest, to become worthy of God.
We recognise our sickness – the mortal power of sin working in us- and plead for a physician. Then He Who said that He was ‘not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’, adding that ‘they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick’ (Matt. 9.12,13), does indeed answer our appeal. He heals our souls from every ill, giving new energy, enlightening with an undying light. The age-old experience of life in the Church has proved irrefutably that for prayer- that is, for God- no sickness of spirit is incurable. We may be born into the most unfavourable circumstances. We may grow up in ignorant, rough, even criminal surroundings, and be attracted by the general example. We may suffer every kind of deprivation, loss, injury. We may be deformed from birth, and know what it is to be despised, wounded, rejected. All that is unfortunate in the contemporary world may make its mark on us, possess us, even; but from the moment we turn to God, resolved to follow His commandments, a process of basic healing begins. And not only are we healed of our wounds or passions – even our outward appearance may alter. This happened often on the Holy Mountain. Men would arrive broken and reduced to a pitiful state by many years of depraved living, yet after a brief period of profound repentance their faces were good to look upon, their voices changed, they moved differently- and the spirit shone luminous within them. If any of my readers is suffering from some psychological wound occasioned by failure in life, he can attain to a regal freedom of spirit and radically change his whole life if he turns to God every day with a personal prayer such as this, for example:
Prayer at Daybreak
O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things,
Who of Thine inscrutable goodness didst call me to this life;
Who didst bestow on me the grace of Baptism
and the Seal of the Holy Spirit;
Who hast imbued me with the desire to seek Thee,
the one true God: hear my prayer.
I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom;
no strength except in Thee, O God.
Because of my unrighteousness I dare not raise my eyes to Thee.
But Thou didst say to Thy disciples,
‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive’
and ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do’.
Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee.
Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit.
Teach me to pray aright.
Bless this day which Thou dost give unto me,
Thine unworthy servant. By the power of Thy blessing
enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory
with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love,
gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom:
aware always of Thy presence.
Of Thine immense goodness, O Lord God, shew me the path
of Thy will,
and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin.
O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open,
Thou knowest what things I have need of.
Thou art acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance,
Thou knowest my infirmity and my soul’s corruption;
but neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee.
Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer
and by Thy Holy Spirit teach me the way wherein I should
and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths
spare me not, O Lord, but force me back to Thee.
By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good.
Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul;
from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight
and hurtful to my brother-man.
Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.
If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace
that causeth neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow.
Establish me in the path of Thy commandments
and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thine ordinances,
that Thy commandments may become the sole law of my being
on this earth and in all eternity.
Yea, Lord, I pray Thee, have pity on me.
Spare me in mine affliction and my misery
and hide not the way of salvation from me.
In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things.
Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness.
Have mercy upon me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence because of my presumption.
Do Thou rather increase in me this presumption,
and grant unto me, the worst of men,
to love Thee as Thou hast commanded,
with all my heart, and with all my soul,
and with all my mind, and with all my strength:
with my whole being.
Yea, O Lord, by thy Holy Spirit,
teach me good judgment and knowledge.
Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave.
Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee
Take me not away in the midst of my days,
nor while my mind is still blind.
When Thou shalt be pleased to bring my life to an end,
forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee.
Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour
and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse Thou me from secret faults,
from all iniquity that is hid in me;
and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat.
Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy
and immeasurable love for mankind,
Hear my prayer.