21. Penitent prayers

God loves prayer, and especially when we go to Him to repent of our many sins. Are we able to let our pride go and confess?

Dear beloved,

Our pilgrim met a Greek monk from Mount Athos, who fell ill during his trip to Russia to raise funds for his monastery. The pilgrim decided to look after the Greek monk, pro bono. The pilgrim found great spiritual joy as both of them read from the Philokalia, and prayed often (Proverbs 13:20).

The Greek monk said of the Jesus Prayer, that it is of 2 parts, (1) “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” contains the entire Gospel according to the Holy Fathers and the history of Christ, as it affirms the Lordship of Jesus, who is our Messiah, and the Son of God, part of the Trinity – representing the salvation from God; and (2) “have mercy on me, a sinner” contains an abbreviated overtone of our own history, one full of sins and foolishness. So when we place Christ’s history sovereign above our sinful own, we are acknowledging Him as our salvation of all our sins. The Greek monk also mentioned that while we are asking Christ for mercy, we are not approaching out of fear, but out of love and tears of joy, as a child to his Father (1 Peter 5:7).

One day, a Christian visited the Greek monk and the pilgrim, and complained about Jews who ill-treated and cheated him. The Greek monk told the Christian, that one should respect and love ALL of God’s creatures, and should pray for those who may have wronged us (Psalm 140:1-4 LXX). The Greek monk read to the Christian, from the writings of Saint Mark the Ascetic:
“One who has interior union with God, having experienced tremendous joy, will be kind, unassuming, and non-judgmental against anyone, whether Greek, pagan, Jew, sinners alike. This person will view everyone equally and with purity, with much joy for the world, and pray that everyone, Greeks, Jews, and pagans will glorify God.”

“Contemplatives burn with so much love that, if at all possible, they would embrace everyone into their bosoms, whether good or evil” – Saint Macarius the Great (Coptic).

We pale in comparison, and are deeply ashamed should we dare to stand before these saints today, in a conversation. Much as we try to love our neighbors as ourselves while professing our love for God, or even attempt to try to forgive and love our “enemies”, we know inside our hearts that we are far from the advice given out of love to us, from holy elders such as Saint Macarius and Saint Mark the Ascetic (St Matthew 22:39).

When the Greek monk recovered, the pilgrim took his leave and journeyed on. Soon a deserter met the pilgrim and asked for his counsel. The deserted recounted his story, that he took the identity of an honorably discharged dead soldier, and married the widowed daughter of an old trader. When the old trader died, the deserter and his wife ruined the business to the ground, due to their ignorance of doing business. Eventually, out of poverty and hunger, the deserter started stealing. One day, he dreamt of his dead grandfather, who in the dream, wanted to kill him for his sins. When he woke up from his dreams, there were physical signs of struggle that matched what he dreamed about, and he was deeply distressed and afraid. Finally, unable to deal with his guilt, he wanted to hang himself, and that’s when he met the pilgrim (Psalm 49:15 LXX, Isaiah 61:1-3).

The pilgrim told the deserter, that he should pray to God to quash the fears and anger. But the deserter was afraid to pray, that God would strike him down for the terrible sins he had committed. The pilgrim assured the deserter that God would forgive one who will repent and pray for his sins. The pilgrim suggested the deserter start praying the Jesus Prayer. The two of them walked and prayed together towards Pochaev. The pilgrim told the deserter that both of them should receive the communion. The deserted listened, and went to confession, receive the Holy Communion, and prayed the Jesus Prayer unceasingly. One day, he fell asleep and dreamt that his grandfather appeared in glory, with much love, told him to get a job at the Church of Saint George the Conqueror in Zhitomir, and live out his life. Such is the mercy of God when we repent of our sins (Ephesians 3:12).

Many of the greatest saints did not start out as saints. And God does not give up on any of His creations. If we are willing to step up to Him, with true humility, leave our burdens with Him, and confess all of our sins in tears, God will listen to a penitent confession and prayer. Let us pray:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Book Index | Prev: Humble confessions | Next: Inner prayer