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Prayer 31

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

And now, since I have increased
the distress of my sighing voice
with great cries and inconsolable grief,
so that you, merciful forefather
of confession of invisible secrets,1
Son of the living God, Lord Jesus Christ,2
might look with kindness and grant atonement,
for you are indeed able and truly sufficient.
If you want, you have the means;
as much as you want, you can do,3
you, who are more enriched by giving than receiving.4
Your treasure increases more by sharing than gathering.
Your estate grows more by disbursing than collecting.
Your stores pile up more by distributing than hoarding.
All this gives me faith that through you
I might find the path to salvation.
I, the disgraced, believe along with the honorable.
I hope with Abraham and Anna,
one of whom believed your word,5
and the other listened to the words
of the high priest—and for that, in old age,
became the father of countless sons.6
He hoped to see the barren womb of Sarah
as the fertile and blessed field of many peoples:
saints, prophets, and chosen kings.
And the other, Anna,
with the untilled field of her womb,7
abounded with fruit of seven children,
a mystical number symbolizing the eternity of
Him, who is, and the unexaminable bonds of
the eternity of the Godhead and the unending
abundance of children of the baptismal font,
the glorious number which is unpunctuated,
an infinite decimal,
rather it is a prime number, inherently unique
and eternal,
whose nature is eternally beyond telling
and difficult for our minds to comprehend.

B

And now count this small confession of faith in prayer
toward the justification and salvation of
my hopeless soul.
Hear the quivering voice of the cries of my sighing heart,
and rank me with those blessed souls just described,
so that I too might live with them and share in their bliss.
Trusting more in your grace than my works,8
since grace is far more exalted and glorious,
far greater than anything that can be
measured by words–
a comfort to my distress and atonement for my sins,
beyond the feeble reach of our minds,
for with your awe-inspiring blood
and the mother of your incarnation, worthy of adoration,
the circle of the apostles, ranks of prophets,
host of martyrs, both cavalry and foot soldiers,
armed only with courage, wrestlers with fate,
platoons of hermits, orders of learned teachers,
assemblies of the pious, legions of heavenly
spirits on earth,
the heavenly patrol of guards, the offering of
the first fruits,
sacrifice of bulls, lighting of lanterns,
the aroma of incense, the fragrance of scented oils,
the victorious sign of salvation,
the erection of altars where God dwells,
the hands of the priests that rest with grace.9

C

The soul’s every movement
is a reminder of God,
the taking of a step,
the extension of the right hand,
the raising of the arm,
with thanks for good works,
with shame for bad,
for familiar conversation
and public addresses,
in rational discourse,
in works of success,
in the fervor of virtue,
day and night,
we are guided by you
in the useful movements for our spirit,
asleep or awake,
in mortal battles or combat with demons,
in large and small struggles with heretics,
while drinking or eating,
in all that once stirred feelings,
whether pleasant or unpleasant,
with the pleasant we pray to remain,
and from the unpleasing, through your
miraculous intercession,
we pray to be free.
For you are capable of all things, as we all believe,
the suckling infants, rash youths,
immoral men, haughty outlaws,
even the actor and the motley mob,
even in the dancing
and clapping of hands that do not please
your will, Almighty,
you are not forgotten.

D

You have created all and all is yours,
you who are all-compassionate, take mercy on all,
and even those who sin are yours,
for they are in your accounting,
for they know your strength,
even as the Proverb teller said,10
whose prayer I echo with my wretched words,
testifying like a criminal,
I dare to say
that whoever praises your name
recognizes your existence, and though he be
tainted by the sevenfold sins,11
deserving of double punishment
to set a good example, yet,
he is yours, is he not?
For sometimes in the midst of black crows
one sees a flock of white doves,
and in the middle of wild, unkempt horses,
will be a tame sheep,
in the midst of beastly dogs, a sacrificial lamb,
and mildness amid harshness,
perfection amid defects,
humility amid haughtiness,
truth amid lies,
simplicity amid cunning,
purity amid perversity,
kindness amid wickedness,
honesty amid depravity,
mercy amid cruelty,
repentance amid despair,
sweetness amid anger,
reconciliation amid hostility,
forbearance amid sarcasm,
encouragement amid insults,
blessings amid slings and arrows,
that being why I could never understand,
who among us earthly born is destined
for your inheritance, for
you alone judge fairly
and distinguish
the impious who thinks himself pure,
and the prostitute who is repentant,12
O only king and benefactor of all,
blessed in the highest and in all things forever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Is. 1:18; 43:25, Mt. 9:2.

  2 ...... Jn. 8:10, 20:23.

  3 ...... Mt. 8:2.

  4 ...... Acts 20:35.

  5 ...... Gen. 17:16.

  6 ...... 1 Kg. 1:17.

  7 ...... 1 Kg. 2:5.

  8 ...... Rom. 11:6.

  9 ...... Priests were often buried under altars with hands folded in prayer. Thanks to Prof. Abraham Terian of St. Nersess Seminary for this insight.

  10 ...... Wis. 15:2.

  11 ...... Gen. 4:15-24.

  12 ...... Lk. 18:10, Jn. 8:11.