I have mentioned several times throughout the blog that a part of our evening prayers each night is for each child (and adult) to answer the question: “What did I do today to make God sad?” I really like this phrasing – surely a gift to me from my guardian angel – since it seems to cut to the heart of a spirit of repentance – a sense of not wanting to make our heavenly father sad – that child of God relationship we yearn to cultivate. This is in comparison to the “slave of God” who fears incurring the wrath of God or the “employee of God” who simply wants to do good to receive good. (For more on those concepts see my post Nurturing Love).
Recently I have been really impressed with how quickly my two oldest come up with their ideas. Often they find it so difficult (who of us doesn’t!) to remember what they have done and admit to it. We have used various prompts to help them. If they get stuck simply asking them to answer “What kinds of things make God sad?” can sometimes prompt them to list things and then identify with one of them. We also keep the book A Child’s Guide to Confession nearby and I will read through a few pages to give them ideas. Then last night as we were coming home from a lovely week away the children’s prayer book was in the suitcase still and so I used my own prayer book (the Jordanville Prayer Book). I have still markings from my younger years on prayers that I particularly love especially if I don’t have time (or make time) to say the complete prayers and I was struck by the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian to the Most Holy Spirit.
The prayer itself is such a beautiful review of the many ways in which “miss the mark” (ie. sin) in our relationship with God and others. While it hasn’t been a part of our evening prayers till now I plan to print it and keep it with our other evening prayers. Whenever I read prayers with my children (especially new prayers) I do my best to modify the language to make it accessible for even the youngest of listeners while keeping some of the classic and beautiful language of our ancient prayers. In addition, I always say the prayers from the “our” perspective since I read them aloud for myself and the children. So I adapted the prayer as below and offer it here to help aide us all in a daily review of our shortcomings paired with the knowledge of our access to God’s infinite mercy and grace.
With love in Christ,
O Lord, Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, have compassion and mercy on Thy sinful servants and pardon our unworthiness, and forgive us all the sins that we humanly committed today, and not only humanly but even worse than beasts – our voluntary sins, known and unknown, from our youth and from evil suggestions, and from our shamelessness, and from boredom. If we have used Thy name carelessly or thought badly of it, blamed or scolded anyone, or in our anger have said bad things about anyone or made anyone sad, or if we have got angry about anything, or have told a lie, if I have slept more than we need to, or if a poor person has come to us and we didn’t help them, or if we have upset our friend or argued with them, or if we have sad bad things about anyone, or have talked about how great we are, or have been proud, or lost our temper with anyone, or if when standing in prayer our minds have been distracted by worldly things, or if we have had bad thoughts or have eaten or drunk more than we need to, or have laughed at someone, or have thought evil, or have seen something that someone else has or does and wanted it for ourselves in our hearts, or said vulgar things, or made fun of our friend’s sin when our own faults are countless, or if we haven’t said our prayers, or have done some other wrong that we cannot remember – for we have done all this and much more – have mercy, my Lord and Creator, on us Thy lowly and unworthy servants, and absolve and forgive and deliver us in Thy goodness and love for men, so that, full of wants, sinful and wretched as we are, we may lie down and sleep and rest in peace. And we shall worship, praise and glorify Thy most honourable Name, with the Father and His only-begotten Son, now and ever, and for all ages. Amen.