Some written prayers are simply better than anything you can think of yourself. There are phrases in this traditional Orthodox “prayer before bed” that speak worlds. “…or seen the beauty of someone and been wounded by it in my heart…”
To the Holy Spirit:
O Lord, the Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth: have compassion and mercy on me, Thy sinful servant! Absolve me, who am unworthy. Forgive all the sins I have committed this day both in my humanity and my inhumanity, behaving worse than beasts in sins voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown, from my youth,from evil suggestions, haste and despondency. If I have sworn by Thy name or blasphemed it in thought; if I have reproached anyone or become angered by something; or slandered or saddened anyone in my anger; or have lied, or slept unnecessarily; or a beggar has come to me and I have despised him; or have saddened my brother or quarreled with him; or have judged someone; or have allowed myself to become haughty, proud or angry; or, when standing in prayer, my mind has been shaken by the wickedness of this world; or have entertained depraved thoughts; or have over-eaten, over-drunk or laughed mindlessly; or have had evil thoughts or seen the beauty of someone and been wounded by it in my heart; or have spoken inappropriately; or have laughed at my brother’s sins when my own transgressions are countless; or have been indifferent to prayer; or have done any other evil that I can not remember – for I have done all this and more: have mercy, O Master, my Creator, on me, Thy despondent and unworthy servant! Absolve, remit and forgive me, in Thy goodness and love for mankind that I, who am prodigal, sinful and wretched, may lie down in peace and find sleep and rest. May I worship, hymn and praise Thy most honorable name, with the Father and His only-begotten Son, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Yes, many written prayers say better what it means to be “wounded in the heart”. This is one. I wish it were included in the Orthodox Study Bible at the back after “Evening Prayers.”
Wow, indeed. Where did you find this prayer, Father? I haven’t seen this one.
It is from the Orthodox Daily Prayers published by St. Tikhon’s Press.
Evening is the toughest time of day for me to think and pray. Thank you for this heartfelt prayer. It is vivid and complete like Elder Sophrony’s daybreak prayer.
It’s also in the Jordanville Prayer Book.
Beautiful. Thank you.
This “Prayer Before Bed” is all-inclusive and still concise. I believe it can be a spiritual godsend for all Christians.
In fact, I find this prayer so inspiring that I will print a copy of it, so that I can refer to it often.
I need to pray this prayer.
Thank you Father!
Forgive me a sinner.
Fr. Bless: My priest put together a weekly prayer book for morning and evening prayers, and this is in it for every Tues. night. It is one of my favorites. The first time I read it, I was convicted!
A little late, but I add my thanks for posting this lovely prayer!
There is a Swedish prayer for children which in my experience sums up much of what prayer is (forgive my ugly, unrhymed translation; hopefully you’ll get the gist anyway):
Gud som haver barnen kär
Se till mig som liten är
Vart jag mig i världen vänder
Står min lycka i Guds händer
Lyckan kommer, lyckan går
Du förblir, Fader vår
God who holds the children dear
Look after me, for I am small
Wherever in the world I turn
My happiness is in God’s hands
Happiness comes, happiness goes
You remain, Father ours.
Marigold, Are you Swedish? My wife is Swedish and prays this with my children on the nights that she puts them to bed.
Yes, I am half Swedish, on the maternal side. But born and raised in London, England 🙂
The original version of this swedish prayer actually was a tiny bit different. The last line was later changed because it was considered theologically unsound:
Instead of “Du förbliver, Fader Vår” (“You remain, our Father”), it first went like this “Den Gud älskar, lyckan får” – “The one God loves, is given “happiness” (in the sense of being blessed – Augustine describes this somewhere in his confessions).”
This prayer is several hundred years old; the author is unknown. It was first printed in 1780, for the prince, later swedish king, Gustav IV Adolf. During the 19th century several verses were added, and later it was made into a psalm.
Tack, Thomas! You know a lot more about this prayer than I do. I just knew it from childhood, and then read it in svenska psalmboken when I was confirmed in the Swedish (Lutheran) Church. It has stuck with me, I think it’s a lovely expression of man towards God. I often find myself saying it, despite not being a child!
(Sorry for hijacking the comments with Swedishness, Fr. Stephen.)
Father Bless: When I tried praying this prayer with my children before going to bed, my 16 year old daughter was greatly offended at the part that says: “or laughed mindlessly (the translation we used actually said frivously).” She was offended that laughing was being called a sin. How do I explain to her the difference?
1. It’s a fairly adult prayer, dealing with fairly adult sins “looked at someon’es beauty and wounded in the heart” or what have you is not a children’s prayer.
2. At most the laughing refers to laughing in making fun of.
3. Again, this is a prayer for an adult’s prayer. Don’t use it with the kids. Sorry.
I was, at first, confused about the “laughed mindlessly” part when I came across this in the Jordanville Prayer Book. My thought on it was that it’s not saying laughter is a sin (just as it’s not saying eating or drinking are sins), but rather that a particular kind of laughter may be sin. But what kind of laughter? In the context of the prayer, it seems to be implying these things are set against the idea of sobriety that Fr. Stephen has mentioned elsewhere.
Just as gluttony and drunkeness evidence a lack of self-control in matters of eating and drinking, mindless laughing may be a similar lack of self-control.
Am I at least close to the mark here?
Patrick and Coffeezombie — C.S. Lewis has some very insightful comments on laughter in “The Screwtape Letters,” what it means, how we use it for good or for ill, etc. This is in Letter XI. I won’t go into detail (since he puts it better than I could!), but he distinguishes Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. Flippancy is always wrong, and perhaps this is the type of mindless laughter mentioned in the prayer. Lewis says, “If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against [God] that I know . . .. It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.”
A very sobering and convicting prayer…and that’s a good thing. Gee, how many times do I do ALL these things mindlessly.
Just going through a few of your top posts and noticed this one. Respectfully, I must disagree with you about not praying this prayer with kids. I grew up with the Jordanville prayer book. While I didn’t use that prayer rule when I was small, we would read it together on family road trips. Though I remember that time feeling very long, I loved it. At age 12, I started going to church camp. We read the J-ville prayer rule there (slightly abbreviated), and to this day my most vivid memory of that week was listening to a line from this prayer. I remember the note it struck each time I read it to this day.
Both at home and in camp, reading the longer “adult” prayers provoked questions. The answers to those questions helped build a foundation for my spiritual life, and increased my interest and understanding of both private and public (liturgical) prayer. Please do read adult prayers with children and teens- just talk about them, too.
I just realized how little i know about prayer .
God bless you.
when standing in prayer, my mind has been shaken by the wickedness of this world;
I am often shaken by the wickedness of the world, distressed by it, too. I did not think this was sin, but it is in a list of sins. How should I respond to the wickedness of the world in a way that is not sinful?
Re the wickedness of this world. We have examples: Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah, offering the righteous souls to beg God’s mercy. He did not condemn the wicked. Moses asked God to kill him and spare the Israelites when they sinned. This is the heart of love as manifest in Christ most especially. When we see the wickedness of the world, we should not consider ourselves as better or different (not if we search the depths of our heart). And so we pray for them as though we were praying for ourselves. There is no virtue in thinking ourselves better than others. Pray like a Publican or a Prostitute.
Thank you for this insight. I have always seen my sin as seperate from the world’s sin and the world’s sin as seperate from mine. But there is no seperation. My sin is part of the world’s sin.
I just realized that I am shaken more, distressed more for the world’s sin than I am for my own. My prayer now is to be distressed primarily, for my own sin. Since my sin is part of the world’s sin. Then in being distressed fo my own I am distressed for the world’s sin.
Apart from the opening sentence, this is Saint Efraim the Syrian’s prayer before bed – fabulous and beloved of many! Here is the Greek version for anyone interested:
Κύριε, Ἰησοῦ Χριστὲ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ὁ τὴν ἁγίαν σου μητέρα τιμιωτέραν ἀναδείξας πασῶν τῶν ἐπουρανίων δυνάμεων, αὐτός, Πανάγαθε, διὰ τῶν πρεσβειῶν αὐτῆς καὶ πάντων σου τῶν ἁγίων, παρακλήθητι καὶ συγχώρησόν μοι τῷ ἀναξίῳ δούλῳ σου, εἰ τί ἥμαρτον σήμερον ὡς ἄνθρωπος, μᾶλλον δὲ ὡς ἀπάνθρωπος, τὰ ἑκούσιά μου πταίσματα καὶ τὰ ἀκούσια.
Τὰ ἐν γνώσει καὶ ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ, τὰ ἐκ συναρπαγῆς καὶ ἀπροσεξίας καὶ πολλῆς μου ῥαθυμίας καὶ ἀμελείας γεγενημένα.
Εἴτε τὸ ὄνομά Σου τὸ ἅγιον ὤμοσα εἴτε ἐπιώρκισα ἢ ἐβλασφήμησα κατὰ διάνοιανἢ ἐν τινὶ Σὲ παρώργισα.
Ἢ ἔκλαψα ἢ ἐψευσάμην ἢ φίλος παρέβαλε πρὸς ἐμὲ καὶ παρεῖδον αὐτὸν ἢ ἀδελφὸν ἔθλιψα καὶ παρεπίκρανα.
Ἢ ἱσταμένου μου ἐν προσευχῇ καὶ ψαλμωδίᾳ ὁ νοῦς μου ὁ πονηρὸς εἰς τὰ πονηρὰ καὶ βιοτικὰ περιεπόλευσεν ἢ παρὰ τὸ πρέπον ἐτρύφησα.
Ἢ εὐτράπελα ἐλάλησα ἢ ἀφρόνως ἐγέλασα, ἢ ἐκενοδόξησα, ἢ ὑπηρηφανευσάμην, ἢ κάλλος μάταιον ἐθεασάμην καὶ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἐθέλχην τὸν νοῦν.
Ἢ τὰ μὴ δέοντα ἐφλυάρησα ἢ τὸ ἐλάττωμα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ περιειργασάμην καὶ κατέκρινα αὐτόν, καὶ τὰ ἐμαυτοῦ ἀναρίθμητα ἐλαττώματα παρεβλεψάμην, εἴτε τῆς προσευχῆς μου ἠμέλησα εἴτε τί ἄλλον πονηρὸν ἐνενόησα.
Ταῦτα πάντα καὶ ἄλλα, ὅπερ ἔπραξα καὶ οὐ μέμνημαι, συγχώρησόν μοι ὁ Θεὸς τῷ ἀχρίῳ δούλῳ σου, καὶ ἐλέησόν με ὡς ἀγαθὸς καὶ φιλάνθρωπος.
Ἵνα ἐν εἰρήνῃ κοιμηθῶ καὶ ὑπνώσω ὁ ἄσωτος ἐγώ, δοξάζων Σὲ σὺν τῷ Πατρὶ καὶ τῷ παναγίῳ καὶ ἀγαθῷ καὶ ζωοποιῷ σου Πεύματι, νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰώνας τῶν αἰώνων.