And the Lord is become a refuge for the poor man, a helper in times of well-being and in afflictions. (Psalm 9:8)

Laziness, forgetfulness and ignorance


I try to read or listen to the Psalter daily. It is the church’s hymnal, and the depth of feeling, and combination of sadness and gladness always moves me. If we lived our life and prayed with the feeling that is in the Psalms, we would not be beset by the mediocrity we mostly settle for.


Today, one of the Kathismas I listened to was the second. Psalm 9 particularly caught my attention. I share some of my feelings about it, in the great hope that you would take up the Psalter and learn from it how to pray, and to live. Other than the Gospels, I think it is the most important book in Scripture – it teaches us about Christ, and life and death, and how to pray and think and live in any situation in life.


9:8  And the Lord is become a refuge for the poor man, a helper in times of well-being and in afflictions.


Remember: personalize! Who is the man who can read these words and not tremble!


As a priest, I well know the phenomenon of people who pray to the Lord only when a great affliction befalls them, or perhaps come to the church for the first time in years, perhaps to light a candle or ask prayers for a loved one who has died. This is not the measure of how much we believe. We must consider the Lord to be our helper at all times. It is shameful how little we remember the Lord when things are going well.


I learned recently that the basis of all the passions are this unholy trinity, “Laziness, forgetfulness and ignorance” I think the we must be blamed for all three as the cause of our failing to recognize viscerally that the Lord is our Helper at all Times.


We are lazy, and pray very little, and search the Scriptures very little. This laziness makes us sleepy and we forget to seek God for everything in our life (the Psalms are the epitome of seeking God in prayer, and that is one of the reasons we must read them regularly). If we are praying little, reading little, and seeking little, we remain ignorant of God’s economy in our life. We are proud in our own conceits[1], and not like the poor man, who is also described in the beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”[2] This is a sad state of affairs.


Two of these passions are listed and the end result of them is described in the petition of St John Chrysostom in the Evening prayers:


O Lord, deliver me from all ignorance, forgetfulness, faintheartedness, and stony insensibility.[3]


How do we fight this “stony insensibility”? First of all, we must know that it grows in us, like a poisonous  weed, in the manure of ignorance, forgetfulness and laziness and faintheartedness (I think in many ways the latter two passions are quite the same in their results, as a lazy man is always fearful when faced with something that should rouse him to action, because he is unaccustomed to labor).


Everything else will follow, if we are willing to labor.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2011     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] The Scripture is not kind to those who are conceited and ignorant of their faults.

Proverbs 26:12  Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Proverbs 26:16  The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

Proverbs 28:11  The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

There are many more examples.

[2] Matthew 5:3

[3] Prayers before sleep, Prayer VII, of St. John Chrysostom, in 24 verses for each hour of the day.

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas