A Prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria

Dorothy Day sent this prayer to Thomas Merton, saying this was her favorite prayer. From a 4th century theologian and writer.

Christianity will give you more than you could ever need. Christianity will ask more of you than you ever thought you could give.

Ephraim, Dorothy, Father Louis – they were onto something.

Start here. And never stop.


Sorrow on me, beloved! That I unapt and reluctant in my will abide, and behold winter hath come upon me and the infinite tempest hath found me naked and spoiled and with no perfecting of good in me. I marvel at myself, O my beloved, how I daily default and daily do repent; I build up for an hour and an hour overthrows what l have builded. At evening I say, tomorrow I will repent, but when morning comes, joyous, I waste the day. Again at evening I say, I shall keep vigil all night and I shall entreat the Lord to have mercy on my sins. But when night is come, I am full of sleep. Behold, those who received their talent along with me, strive by day and night to trade with it, that they may win the word of praise and rule ten cities. But I in my sloth hid mine in the earth, and my Lord makes haste to come and behold my heart trembles and I weep the day of my negligence and know not what excuse to bring. Have mercy on me, Thou Who alone art without sin, and save me, Who alone art pitiful and kind.


Ephrem the Syrian

One thought on “A Prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria

  1. Fascinated by the thought of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton sharing faith. I appreciate the prayer’s almost-despairing recognition of faithlessness, but I’m not sure what to make of it after “Behold.”

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