Men ought always to pray, and not to faint

JOB, a man of discernment, was victorious in temptations.

Sickness came upon him, and he complained not; disease afflicted him and he murmured not; his body failed and his strength departed, but his will was not weakened.

He proved perfect in all by sufferings, for as much as temptations crushed him not.

St Ephrem the Syrian, “On Admonition and Repentance” §20. Translation from CCEL.

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From the Service of Holy Oils

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Did Job really “complain not”? Judging by Job 1:22, in the light of the calamities that fell on Job, St Ephrem was quite right (of course).

IN all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Yet in the chapters that follow, from 3 to 37, Job complained a good deal.

THEREFORE I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.  Job 7:11

And God seems to refer to the same thing.

THEN the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Job 38:1-2

Yet in the end, it is the three so-called friends of Job who “have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (Job 42:7).

They peddled copy-book answers, and advised Job to stop searching for meaning, while they sat in judgment on one whose sufferings they did not share, and without knowing the truth behind his afflictions.

By contrast, Job went on asking sincere if bitter questions, and if his search for meaning took him down many blind alleys, he never gave up hope in God. So exactly as St Ephrem said, “He proved perfect in all by sufferings, for as much as temptations crushed him not”.

IF it happens that one asks something of God and does not receive it, this can mean that God heard the prayer but in His providential wisdom He tests the man of prayer’s endurance, and when this man endures to the end then he will receive in greater amount than that for which he prayed.

Patriarch Pavel of Serbia (+2009). Source.

Two side-by-side parables in St Luke’s Gospel seem to me to explain the message of the Book of Job.

AND he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

AND he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:1-14

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"Praying in Church", by Theodoros Rallis (1876)

"Praying in Church", by Theodoros Rallis (1876)

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Psalm 142(143)

O LORD, attend to my prayer: hearken to my supplication in thy truth; hear me in thy righteousness. And enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has brought my life down to the ground; he has made me to dwell in a dark place, as those that have been long dead.

Therefore my spirit was grieved in me; my heart was troubled within me.

I remembered the days of old; and I meditated on all thy doings: yea, I meditated on the works of thine hands. I spread forth my hands to thee; my soul thirsts for thee, as a dry land.

Pause.

HEAR me speedily, O Lord; my spirit has failed; turn not away thy face from me, else I shall be like to them that go down to the pit.

Cause me to hear thy mercy in the morning; for I have hoped in thee; make known to me, O Lord, the way wherein I should walk; for I have lifted up my soul to thee.

Deliver me from mine enemies, O Lord; for I have fled to thee for refuge. Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God; thy good Spirit shall guide me in the straight way.

Thou shalt quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake; in thy righteousness thou shalt bring my soul out of affliction.

And in thy mercy thou wilt destroy mine enemies, and wilt destroy all those that afflict my soul; for I am thy servant.

At the Euchelion (Service of Holy Oils, the sacrament of Healing)

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