The Orthodox Church places prayer at the core of the Orthodox Christian life. The Church offers us the Book of Psalms, the “Our Father” that Christ taught us, various liturgies, devotional prayer services to various saints, and private prayers written by the saints. All of these prayers guide us closer to Christ by giving us words to say when we can’t quite seem to find them. Over time, these prayers shape the words we use in times of need and inspire the conversation we have with God at all times.
In recent years, a prayer written by Saint Philaret the Metropolitan of Moscow (1782 – 1867) has come into popular use as a prayer for the beginning of the day. Here is the prayer in whole:
O Lord, grant me to meet the coming day in peace. Help me in all thing to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealing with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.
Prayed daily, this prayer helps us reorient our attention from the world’s distractions and passions and towards a focus and trust in God. Saint Philaret calls us to look at our inner world, to align our will with God’s, and to be attentive to how we interact with those around us.
1. Serenity and our inner world
The first thing this prayer is concerned with is our inner world. We ask in this prayer that God grant us the peace we need for this day. We ask Him for help in treating everything with peace of soul, instead of with anxiety and stress. How often do we wake up anxious, beginning the day already feeling behind schedule and worried? If only we could discover this peace on our own (the right meditation practice or the right quiet place in nature); if only we could fix ourselves! But instead of our peace, we need the peace of God which is beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7), a peace not like what the world can offer, a peace that casts out our fear and calms our troubled hearts (John 14:27).
As God calms our anxieties, He also gives us strength when we are not strong enough to stand. In this prayer, we ask God for the strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day. We don’t ask God to strengthen us tomorrow, we just ask for His help today “with all that it shall bring”. This implies we are also willing to trust that God will be with us in whatever situation we might encounter today. We are not alone.
We also ask God to guide our thoughts and our feelings. We are so often pulled this way and that by our emotions and thought life, but Saint Philaret reminds us to ask God to be our guide in everything. We even ask God to give us the words to pray. And as this prayer helps us to rely on God, it also calls our attention to His will.
2. God’s will and our will
So much of the Christian life is trying to bring our will into alignment with God’s will. Theologians and poets, rich and poor alike, all struggle with accepting God’s will at certain times, especially in times of suffering and difficulties. As Orthodox Christians, we neither believe in a God who can be manipulated by man (if we only pray correctly) nor a God who holds us like puppets on strings (where we have no control over our choices). Instead, we seek to know what God’s will is each day and then strive to live in accordance with that will.
Saint Philaret gives us the words to ask God to reveal His will to us and that we will then rely on His will in everything. But in moments of weakness and in moments of distress, we might lose that conviction that God is still with us at all times. So we ask God for the assurance that His will governs all things.
Finally, we give up trying to be in control by asking God to direct us and to help us bring our will to match His. We stop trying to run our own show and make a decision to let God be our shepherd and our guide. We give up control over what we cannot control and trust that God will take care of the outcome. As we let go, it opens us up not only to a better relationship with God, but also with our neighbor.
3. Our dealings with others
Just as we need to be aware of our inner life, and to meditate on the will of God, we also need to be cognizant of how we relate to and treat others. The prayer next asks that God will bless all of our interactions with our neighbor. In the stillness of our morning prayers, we ask God to help us not to forget that everyone in our lives can help us grow closer to God – even the most frustrating person – but how they do so depends on us. This is why we ask God to remind us that all are sent by Him. It changes our perspective from seeing others as pests to agents of God’s will in our lives.
It’s easy to be sure of our own “rightness”. We see that all too much today. What’s harder is to let go of being right and to live humbly in relation to others. At times we might need to be firm, but we always need God’s discernment in learning how to speak as God would have us speak. So we ask God that we “act firmly and wisely” but with the important caveat that our relations with others be “without embittering and embarrassing” them. Saint Philaret leads us then to approach our dealings with others with humility instead of with pride.
When we are anxious and stressed out, when we are pursuing our own will instead of God’s, when we are pitting ourselves against others, we will not have the eyes to see and the ears to hear how God is working in our lives today. The prayer of Saint Philaret, like all of the prayers of our Church, helps us to slow down and to bring attention to this present moment. For it is here and now that we can encounter the living God. Today, we can know the peace of God, we can pursue the will of God, and we can see God at work in our lives through our neighbor.
Have you ever incorporated the prayer of Saint Philaret in your morning prayers? How might praying this short prayer help you to see that Christ is present with you, even in the stress of today?
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Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.
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