Controlling Others, Controlling Self

Lenten Rose

Throughout Great Lent we say the Lenten prayer of St. Ephrem in which, depending on the translation you use, we ask God to deliver us from meddling in the lives of others and from lust of power over others.   We ask that God replace these vices in our lives with virtues of patience, humility and love towards others.   The spiritual focus in Great Lent is on practicing self-control, self-restraint, self-denial.  We are looking to learn how to humble ourselves before our fellow Christians, to love them and to serve them, rather than judging them or trying to lord it over them.

This goal is also very clear in a morning prayer from a New Skete Monastery prayer book for Great Lent (emphasis mine and not in the original text).

O Compassionate Lord: At night we sleep comfortably, in spite of the mediocrity of our lives. So now, finding ourselves alive, once more, and able to greet the beauty of another morning, we are disturbed at the lethargy in which we live. We beseech you, therefore: Give us determination to succeed in repentance.

During these lenten days, change our ravenous appetites to control everyone and everything into a praiseworthy desire for self-control, so that, learning the wisdom of this self-restraint, we may enjoy the freedom of all your sons and daughters.

By the grace and mercy and love for us of your only Son, with whom you are blessed, together with your all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit: now and forever, and unto ages of ages.

Deny yourself and take up your cross

The Fathers noted with great alarm our willingness to fast from food but then to voraciously consume the people we don’t like through gossip, judgmentalism and hatred.  Lenten repentance is accomplished when we humbly give up our desire to control others, and learn the wisdom and love of controlling ourselves.