This prayer is a very cathartic prayer by St. Ephraim. It is good to use when a person commits sin that needs confession, and wants to begin the process of repentance now. A person should repent using this prayer to feel oneself as first among sinners, with the full understanding that confession is still needed. We must beware not to focus on ourselves, but God at all times.
We must also beware not to use such prayers to fall into self pity! We must understand of our unworthiness, and put all our focus and confidence in God and His mercy. This prayer is not a substitute for confession but meant to help us return our focus to God through a catharsis that culminates in the sacrament of confession.
Return always to God and be constantly mindful that God is Joy, Mercy and Love!
Saint Ephraim the Syrian
A VERY COMPUNCTIONATE PRAYER
TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Now, once again today,
ashamed and with eyes cast down
I dare to speak to you,
the Master and creator of all:
I am but dust and ashes,
a reproach of men,
truly a worm and not a man,
completely condemned and in deep sorrow
How can I look upon you, O Master?
With what heart?
With what conscience?
With what tongue shall I speak to you?
How can I begin my confession?
Of which sins
shall I, the miserable one, »
first ask remission?
For those I have committed knowingly
and have no excuse
or for those by which
I have violated your holy commandments?
Or should I begin, rather, with my evil thoughts
that have been recorded
and must be accounted for?
I know, O Lord,
that because of my many and evil sins,
I am not worthy
to call upon your fearful and holy name
nor to stand in prayer ,
nor to look up and see the height of heaven,
for I have transgressed more than any man,
I have violated the law more than Manasseh;
I have lived more prodigally
than the prodigal son;
the enemy has taxed me
more than the publican;
I, who love prostitution,
have prostituted myself
more than the harlot;
I have transgressed
more than Nineveh, but unrepentantly;
my iniquities have risen higher than my head
and as a heavy burden
have pressed heavily upon me,
having become wretched,
I am utterly bowed down.
I have enraged your holy name;
I have distressed your Holy Spirit;
I have despised your commandments;
I have in various Ways stained my soul,
created in your image;
I have wasted in sins
the time that you gave me for repentance;
I have shamed my face;
I have totally blinded my eyes;
I have defiled my lips with lies;
and all the parts and the portions
of my soul and body
have been instruments of sin.
has been mingled With demonic thoughts
and I find
that with every Work and thought
I embitter your goodness
while serving my enemy,
even though he fights against me.
Therefore, I am self-condemned
and, before my forthcoming judgment,
I have my evil life to indict me
and the foul smell of my passions
to put me to shame.
From the years of my childhood
I am always stained by filthy thoughts.
I have been an instrument of destructive sin
although I hear every day
about judgment and retribution,
I cannot resist sin,
but I, the wretched one,
am always captured by it.
Alas! O Lord,
for I have badly wasted your longsuffering.
Alas! for the time of my life
has passed by in vanity.
Alas! How shall I lament
the blindness of my soul? .
How shall I mourn
my passionate and thoughtless will?
But, O Master,
look mercifully from your holy high place,
behold my incorrigible soul
and with the means and ways you know
correct me by your mercy. v
As if standing before you, O Christ King,
as if touching your immaculate feet,
so I implore you
with a broken heart.
Have mercy on me, O merciful one.
Do not wait for my corrupt will,
for I have no eagerness to correct myself.
For many times, I have been ready to repent,
yet I, the most miserable one,
have become a liar
with respect to my decision to be with you.
many times you have had mercy on me,
but I have neglected you;
you have raised me up many times,
but I have again fallen down;
you have endured me,
but I have again enraged you.
How many times my humble soul
has been filled with your grace, O Lord!
How many times
has it illumined my dark mind!
How many times
has it comforted my poverty
and expelled my despair!
How many times
has it collected my mind together
from the delusion of the imagination!
Yet I, the unfortunate one,
always reject your grace, O compassionate one
thinking and reﬂecting upon these things,
I am completely amazed
as I am plunged into the depths of wonder;
for I, the miserable one,
have nothing good to use as an apology.
O lover of mankind,
how can I proclaim your blessings to me,
which I, the impious one, reject?
I am Worthy of a myriad of punishments,
for you have filled me, the ungrateful one,
with a myriad of gifts.
Even so, O Master,
having an ocean of long-suffering .
and boundless compassion inherent to your nature,
do not allow me, the ungrateful one,
to be cut off as the fruitless fig tree,
neither seize me unprepared,
nor present my soul
as pitifully condemned
before your dreadful
and impartial seat of judgment.
But as a good God, who loves mankind,
have mercy on me,
the ungrateful one,
the hardened one, o
the one with no excuse,
the one who is worthy of every hell
How can I call upon you, O Master of all,
without having kept your commandments?
For after I received
the knowledge of your truth,
I became irritable, merciless,
and especially a captive to evil thoughts;
I also became captive to gluttony,
greed, pride, slander
While I myself lie, I grieve for the liers;
I, who am full of transgressions,
judge those who transgress.
If insulted, I defend myself.
If I am not honored, I feel abhored
and I consider as enemies
those who tell me the truth.
If I am not ﬂattered,
I feel disgusted.
I expect honors.
If someone does not serve me,
I defame him as arrogant.
I ignore the brother who is sick,
but when I am sick,
I want to be loved and cared for.
I despise the superiors
and overlook the inferiors.
If I keep myself even for a little bit
from unreasonable desires,
I become vainglorious.
If I attain some degree of vigilance,
I am entrapped by its opposite.
If I restrain myself from foods,
I am thrown down because of my pride.
If I make some progress in virtue,
I boast before my brothers.
Externally I appear humble,
but in my soul I am presumptuous.
I am not going to mention
the vain thoughts I have in church
and the Wanderings of my mind during prayer
I leave aside the hypocritical meetings,
the greed in the give and take of business,
the publication of the mistakes of others
and the disastrous slanders.
This is my accursed life.
Among a myriad of such evils,
I struggle for my salvation,
but my arrogance and pride
do not allow me to understand them.
What apology have I before you, my God,
if I claim that the evil one
has suggested these to me?
Not even Adam was helped
when he apologized in this manner.
Who will not mourn my loss?
Who will not sigh for my blindness?
Who will not lament my insensitivity?
O Lord, grant me repentance
for the sake of your infinite compassion.
O all Saints,
intercede for me, the sinner,
pouring out your supplication
to the compassionate God
that he may recall my soul
which has been attached to hades
through disgraceful passions.
O Saints, intercede for me,
so that through your holy prayers
I may become Worthy of repentance.
For it is your work, O holy ones,
to intercede for sinners,
and it is God’s Work to be merciful
upon those who are in despair.
O. blessed and righteous ones,
who have carried out Well the fight,
come, gather for me, the wretched,
and either lament over me
as one does for the dead
or have pity on me
as one does for one half-dead.
I have no boldness before God
because of my many sins.
Pour out your mercy on me, O saints,
as you would to a hostage and an injured one
For I know that if you entreat God,
all my transgressions will be forgiven by him
because of his ineffable mercy,
for as he is loving to mankind so are you.
Only do not overlook me.
Receive, O Lord,
this humble supplication of mine
and have mercy on me
through the intercessions
of your immaculate Mother
and of all your Saints,
so that I too,
together with all the saved,
through your ineffable mercy,
may worship you, God the Logos,
Who is glorified in the Father and the Spirit
- From the Book "Voices in the Wilderness: An Anthology of Patristic Prayers " edited byNikolaos S. Hatzinikolaou 1988 Holy Cross Press