St. Ambrose, elder of Optina offered to those who came to him with various sorrows and trials a special, brief prayer rule that is possible for any Christian to read. The elder knew from his own experience the effectiveness of these prayers, how they strengthen one's enfeebled spirit, and how they scatter the enemy's attacks if read with faith and hope in God's almighty help. This prayer rule, comprised of the Psalms of David, we offer here together with extracts from the letters of St. Ambrose.
FROM THE LETTERS OF ST. AMBROSE OF OPTINA
Hope in God's mercy and help, and believe that the Lord is powerful to deliver you from all attacks both human and demonic. It is written in the Psalms: The Lord scattereth the plans of the heathens, He setteth aside the devices of the peoples... But the counsel of the Lord abideth unto eternity (Ps. 32:10–11).
I am writing down some Psalms for you that St. David prayed when he was being persecuted by his enemies: numbers 5, 53, 58, and 142. Chose the appropriate words from these Psalms for yourself, and read them often, turning to God with faith and humility. When you are being warred against by despondency, or some sorrow beyond your control, read Psalm 101.
Psalm 3. Of David, when he fled from the face of Abessalom his son, in the wilderness.
O Lord, why are they multiplied that afflict me? Many rise up against me. Many say unto my soul: There is no salvation for him in his God. But Thou, O Lord, art my helper, my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy mountain. I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord will help me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God, for Thou hast smitten all who without cause are mine enemies; the teeth of sinners hast Thou broken. Salvation is of the Lord, and Thy blessing is upon Thy people.
Psalm 53. For the end: among the hymns of instruction by David, when the Ziphites came and said to Saul: Lo, is not David hidden with us?
O God, in Thy name save me, and in Thy strength do Thou judge me. O God, hearken unto my prayer, give ear unto the words of my mouth. For strangers are risen up against me, and mighty men have sought after my soul and have not set God before themselves. For behold, God helpeth me, and the Lord is the protector of my soul. He will bring evils upon mine enemies. Utterly destroy them by Thy truth. Willingly shall I sacrifice unto Thee; I will confess Thy name, O Lord, for it is good. For out of every affliction hast Thou delivered me, and mine eye hath looked down upon mine enemies.
Palm 58. For the end: destroy not. David's. For a pillar inscription, when Saul sent and watched his house to slay him.
Rescue me from mine enemies, O God, and from them that rise up against me redeem me. Deliver me from them that work iniquity, and from men of blood do Thou save me. For lo, they have hunted after my soul, the mighty have set upon me. Neither is it mine iniquity, O Lord, nor my sin; without iniquity I ran, and directed my steps; arise to meet me, and behold. And Thou, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, be attentive to visit all the heathen; be not merciful to any that work iniquity. They shall return at evening, and shall hunger like dogs, and shall go round about the city. Behold, they shall utter sounds with their mouth, and a sword is in their lips: For who, say they, hath heard? And Thou, O Lord, shalt laugh them to scorn; Thou shalt bring to nought all the heathen. O my Strength, I will keep watch for Thee, for Thou, O God, art my helper. As for my God, His mercy shall go before me; my God shall make it manifest unto me among mine enemies. Slay them not, lest at any time they forget Thy law; scatter them by Thy power, and bring them down, O Lord my defender. The sin of their mouth is the speech of their lips; yea, let them be taken captive in their pride. And from their curse and falsehood shall their final destruction be made known in the wrath of their utter destruction, and they shall be no more. And they shall know that God is sovereign of Jacob and of the ends of the earth. They shall return at evening, and shall hunger like dogs, and shall go round about the city. They shall be scattered abroad that they may eat; if they be not satisfied, they shall murmur. But as for me, I will sing of Thy power; and in the morning I will rejoice in Thy mercy. For Thou art become my helper and my refuge in the day of my tribulation. Thou art my helper, unto Thee will I chant; for Thou, O God, art my helper; O my God, Thou art my mercy.
Psalm 142. David's. When his son Abessalom pursued him.
O Lord, hear my prayer, give ear unto my supplication in Thy truth; hearken unto me in Thy righteousness. And enter not into judgement with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath humbled my life down to the earth. He hath sat me in darkness as those that have been long dead, and my spirit within me is become despondent; within me my heart is troubled. I remembered days of old, I meditated on all Thy works, I pondered on the creations of Thy hands. I stretched forth my hands unto Thee; my soul thirsteth after Thee like a waterless land. Quickly hear me, O Lord; my spirit hath fainted away. Turn not Thy face away from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Thy mercy in the morning; for in Thee have I put my hope. Cause me to know, O Lord, the way wherein I should walk; for unto Thee have I lifted up my soul. Rescue me from mine enemies, O Lord; unto Thee have I fled for refuge. Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God. Thy good Spirit shall lead me in the land of uprightness; for Thy name's sake, O Lord, shalt Thou quicken me. In Thy righteousness shalt Thou bring my soul out of affliction, and in Thy mercy shalt Thou utterly destroy mine enemies. And Thou shalt cut off all them that afflict my soul, for I am Thy servant.
Psalm 101. A prayer of the poor man. When he was despondent, and poured out his supplication before the Lord.
O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto Thee. Turn not Thy face away from me; in the day when I am afflicted, incline Thine ear unto me. In the day when I call upon Thee, quickly hearken unto me. For my days are vanished like smoke, and my bones consumed like wood for the burning. I am smitten like grass, and withered is my heart, for I forgot to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bone hath cleaved unto my flesh. I am become like a pelican of the wilderness, I am like an owl in a ruined house. I have watched, and am like a sparrow that sitteth alone upon the house-top. The whole day long mine enemies reproached me, and they that praised me made an oath against me. For before the face of Thy wrath and Thine anger I ate ashes like bread, and my drink I mingled with weeping; for after uplifting me, Thou hast dashed me down. My days like a shadow have declined, and I like grass am withered. But Thou, O Lord, for ever abidest, and Thy remembrance is unto generation and generation. Thou shalt rise up and have pity upon Sion, for it is time to have compassion on her, yea, the time is come. For Thy servants have taken pleasure in her stones, and they shall feel pity for her dust. And the nations shall fear Thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory. For the Lord shall build up Sion, and He shall be seen in His glory. He hath regarded the prayer of the humble, and hath not despised their supplication. Let this be written for another generation, and the people that is being created shall praise the Lord. For He hath looked out from His holy height, the Lord from heaven hath looked upon the earth, To hear the groaning of them that be in fetters, to loose the sons of the slain, To declare in Sion the name of the Lord, and His praise in Jerusalem, When the peoples are gathered together, and the kings to serve the Lord. He answered Him in the way of his strength: The fewness of my days declare unto me. Take me not away at the half of my days; in generations and generations are Thy years. In the beginning, O Lord, Thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou abidest; and all like a garment shall grow old, And as a vesture shalt Thou fold them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail. The sons of Thy servants shall have their dwelling, and their seed for ever shall be guided aright.
08 / 07 / 2010