Reflect on the prayer phrase by phrase and let it question you.
“O Lord and Master of my life…”
Who is Lord and master of my life? Me? God? The ideas, slogans, and choices of people around me?
“…take from me the spirit of sloth…”
“The spirit of sloth” refers to laziness, indolence, indifference, or forgetfulness. In a commentary on the prayer, Fr. Alexander Schmemann regards sloth as the “basic disease…that strange laziness that always pushes us down rather than up — which constantly convinces us that no change is possible and therefore desirable. It is in fact a deeply rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds ‘what for?’ and makes our life one tremendous spiritual waste.” Sloth, says Olivier Clement in another commentary, is “a kind of sleepwalking, whether expressed in hyperactivity or in inertia.” How much of an effort do I make in daily life to try to think of Christ and try to follow him? To be aware of God’s presence in people and in nature? To actively seek the kingdom of God? To respond to God’s grace?
The word in question is sometimes translated from the Greek as despondency or faint-heartedness. It also suggests discouragement, being cowardly, an aversion to life – suicide of the soul. An important icon shows Saint George in combat with a dragon. The actual George, a martyr of the early Church, never saw a dragon but battled against those fears which, unresisted, make one submit to evil. Not to battle the dragons we meet in life is to submit to despair, to give way to faint-heartedness. Am I easily discouraged? Do I surrender within myself when frightened? Am I cowardly in living my faith? Do I arm myself for spiritual combat with a rule of prayer in my daily life?
Read the rest on Royal Doors: Meditation on the Prayer of St. Ephrem