“Save Me Whether I Want It Or Not” – Justification and the Orthodox

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One of my favorite prayers (from the “Morning Prayers” which is not one of the services, but one of many variations of private prayers used by Orthodox Christians) is to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and is quite clear on justification – at least in a way that should quieten any critics of Orthodoxy who think we are not clear enough on justification and faith. I first published this prayer back on October 27. In light of articles and postings recently here I thought the prayer would bear repeating. Some things cannot be read too often:

My most merciful and all-merciful God, O Lord Jesus Christ! In Thy great love, Thou didst come down and become flesh in order to save all. Again, I pray Thee, save me by Grace! If Thou shouldst save me because of my deeds, it would not be a gift, but merely a duty. Truly, Thou aboundest in graciousness and art inexpressibly merciful! Thou hast said, O my Christ: “He who believes in me shall live and never see death.” If faith in Thee saves the desperate, behold: I believe! Save me, for Thou art my God and my Maker. May my faith replace my deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds to justify me. May my faith be sufficient for all. May it answer for me; may it justify me; may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory; and may Satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that He has torn me from Thy hand and fold. O Christ my Savior: save me whether I want it or not! Come quickly, hurry, for I perish! Thou art my God from my mother’s womb. Grant, O Lord, that I may now love Thee as I once loved sin, and that I may labor for Thee without laziness as once I labored for Satan the deceiver. Even more, I will labor for Thee, my Lord and God Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

This prayer covers my day to day life rather well. It reminds me of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s asking, “Do you want to want to want to?” When asking someone to forgive another, who at first refused. Such is God’s mercy.

16 comments:

  1. “I thought the prayer would bear repeating. Some things cannot be read too often.”

    So true, so true. Prayers, especially, in this time and place where people need to be taught how to pray.

    It brings to mind one of those hangups we Protestants have about the so-called “repetitive prayers”. But I’ve always thought, that it is perseverance, not repetition, if it is prayed in faith, and mirrors what we truly need to tell God.

    And that without faith, without the Holy Spirit leading our prayer, our freeform, freestyle prayers are just as much in vain.

    Gah, I’m somewhat off-topic again! (But not so very off, I hope.)

  2. I thought teach me to at least “want to want to want to” was my private prayer.

    Do you have prayer book suggestions? What about daily bible reading or pslams praying?

  3. Dear Jack,
    Christ is in our midst!
    I have a link that I really enjoy its
    http://pomog.org/index.html?http://pomog.org/psalter.shtml
    This is the daily readings from the Psalter according to the LXX
    Its from Protection of the Mother of God Church (ROCOR)
    They also have a link for prayers.
    Ny faavorite prayer book is the one from St. Tikhon’s Monastery; perhaps I like it best because that is the one I was given when I became Orthodox.
    St. Arsenius used the Psalter as a Book of Needs and that is available as well, I have that on my site, it is lovely to pray when there are specific issues going on…
    Fr. Stephen I don’t recall many other of our prayers speaking in such a direct way to this issue as this prayer, are there other prayers besides this one?
    the handmaid,
    Mary-Leah

  4. Any of the common prayer books, the St. Tikhon’s edition, or the Jordanville edition, are quite good and provide ample resources for private prayer.

    The use of Psalms is, of course, always good. There are charts for the use of Psalms with the various services, but, I find, it is just fine to simply read (or chant) Psalms in regular succession with daily prayers, perhaps a few at a time.

    Some of it depends on how long you’re planning to pray. In Coptic Orthodoxy, the recitation of all 150 Psalms each day is pretty much the standard daily prayers of a monastic.

    A few Psalms, with attention, are usually fine.

    It is important in reading Scripture to remember that it is Christ whom we seek. He is hidden under figures and other images in the writings of the Old Testament. The greater one’s familiarity with how these images are used in Orthodox services, the more helpful and accessible they become.

  5. Fr Thomas’s “Do you want to want to” reminds me of St Ignatius Loyola’s counsel to pray for the “desire for the desire.” Often, this is the best I can do.

  6. Fr. Alvin,

    Note that Fr. Thomas has yet one more “want to”. I suspect that God, in His mercy, stretches even further than that. He has in my case.

  7. On the repetition of prayers, I once heard Fr. Peter Gilquist say that we pray not so that God might be changed, but so that we might be changed. This has stuck with me ever since. And I even notice it, especially in prayers like this. We repeat things (Lord, have mercy is a great example) so that we can be edified by it and that it might eventually sink in and begin to bear fruit in our lives. Of course, receptiveness and attention, as noted by Fr. Stephen, are absolutely necessary.

    After all, it is vain repetition that the Scriptures warn against.

    Thanks for this post, Father. This prayer is a favorite of mine.

  8. Great prayer!

    This was music to my Protestant ears:

    “May my faith replace my deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds to justify me.”

    But this line was beautifully pentetrating for my sinful heart:

    “Grant, O Lord, that I may now love Thee as I once loved sin”

    Soli Deo Gloria.

  9. Jonathan, thank you! Your (and Fr. Gilquist’s) point put clearly what I have long struggled to explain.

    *runs away to note it down for next time she gets caught in the middle of an argument with her fundamentalist friends*

    I began reading this blog for the prayers, because they remind me about what I need, as opposed to what I think I need, and give me a structure and a checklist for praying more deeply.

  10. Hello Fr. Stephen, I am an orthodox. Do you have some prayers against sorcery and against ‘the evil eye’, or the Prayer of St. Cyprian, etc, that can be read by common persons (as I know that some of them, such as St. Basil’s Exorcisms are very powerful and strong and can only be read by the priests, and after severe fasting, etc) ?!
    … and what would be your recommendations for someone who’s trying to remove sorcery that has been done to him/her and to remove (or at least guard from) unwanted and very extremely evil enemies ?!
    I would be really greatful if you could privately e-mail me some prayers and good advices.
    Thank you very much.

  11. Nameless,

    There is a small prayer in the priest’s “Book of Needs” (Trebnik) against the evil eye. But the most useful thing to do, is to go to Church, make confession and go to communion. Nothing can be more powerful. Plus, the priest will help you to keep a seed of anger or retribution from growing in your heart, which is most important.

  12. Old post, I know, but I struggle with the line about faith replacing deeds. The “candid Calvinist” above finds it so musical because this is indeed at the heart of Protestant doctrine. Father, I’ve never seen you write anything on justification/sanctification, and though I know it to be a tiresome subject, I would hope to benefit from your thoughts and prayers on this divisive subject.

  13. Sorry, I really shouldn’t have used the words “justification/sanctification” — I know that they’re theological “buzzwords” that are loaded and behind them lay a reality and mystery that cannot be encapsulated by formulae. But I do have genuine unrest over the relationship between faith and deeds. In this prayer the man says his deeds are of little importance, perhaps none, in light of his faith. This sounds like every sermon at an evangelical or Calvinist church I’ve ever attended. Within Orthodoxy I understand that our deeds *do* indeed save us, and are irreplaceable alongside faith. Please help me better understand, Father.

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