Prayers By the Lake – St. Nikolai of Zicha



Accept the sacrifice of my words, my Father — accept the babbling of a penitent child, my Father!

Correct my words with Your truth, and accept them on the footstool of Your feet.

 Cense my sacrifice with the fragrant incense of a saint’s prayer and do not reject it, O Triradiate Master of worlds.

 The ranks of angels offer You a more eloquent sacrifice, but their words stream to them from You, and return to You, untainted by the repulsiveness of darkness and not throttled in the throat by sin.

I am poor, and I have nothing else to offer on Your sacrificial altar except these words.

Even if I were to offer up creatures to You, I would be offering up words. For what are creatures except words. You have filled the entire universe with tongues, which are flames when they lift up praise to You and water — when they whisper Your praises to themselves.

Even if I were to offer up a lamb to You, I would be offering You a word.

Even if I were to offer up a bird to You, I would be offering You a word.

Why should I offer up someone else’s word to my Lord, why someone else’s and not my own?

Who has made me master over someone else’s life and someone else’s song, over someone else’s flame and someone else’s sacrifice; who?

My words are my life and my song, my flame and my sacrifice. I have taken from what is Yours and am offering it up to You — accept it and do not reject it, O Mother plenteous in lovingkindness.

I have picked a handful of wheat out of a field of tares, accept even a single kernel of wheat out of my handful and You will make me happy.1

From a single kernel You can bake bread, enough for nations.

Accept my mite, O Son Who Resurrects, accept and do not reject the mite of a pauper.2

Accept my sacrifice not for my sake but for the sake of someone who is even more impoverished than I; is there such a person?

Someone who does not even have what I do, for his sake accept my sacrifice; does such a person exist?

The world squeezed me like an accordion, scarcely did I take a breath and I moaned. Let Your angels give melody to my moaning and let them offer it up before You, my love.

I remind myself of all the blessings You have bestowed on me during my lifetime, my unfailing Companion, and I am offering up to You a gift in return from myself.

I am not offering up to You my entire self, for I am not entirely worthy to burn on Your most pure sacrificial altar. I cannot offer as a sacrifice to the Immortal One what is intended for death and corruption.

I offer up to You only that which has grown within me under Your light, that which was saved in me by Your Word.

Accept the sacrifice of my words, O Triune Bouquet of Flowers; accept the babbling of a new-born child.

When the choirs of angels begin to sing around Your throne, when the archangels’ trumpets begin to blare, when Your martyrs begin to weep for joy, and Your saints begin to sob their prayers for the salvation of the Church on earth, do not despise the sacrifice of my words, O Lord my God.

Do not mishear, but hear.

I pray to You and bow down to You, now and throughout all time, and throughout all eternity. Amen.

Written at Lake Ohrid 1921-1922.


1.          Cf. Matt. 13:24-3O.

2.          Cf. Mark 12:41-44.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.






9 responses to “Prayers By the Lake – St. Nikolai of Zicha”

  1. Steve Avatar


  2. luciasclay Avatar

    Myself as one who mainly “babbles” I find the opening most compelling.

    I do wonder what is meant by the following lines :

    “Accept my sacrifice not for my sake but for the sake of someone who is even more impoverished than I; is there such a person?

    Someone who does not even have what I do, for his sake accept my sacrifice; does such a person exist?”

    Accepting his sacrifice on behalf of another is interesting. In this I assume he speaks of his prayer. A sacrifice of words. But on the behalf of another is the part that I am fixing on.

    Can one pray/sacrifice in some way that in reality impacts the salvation of another ? It would seem that any other prayer, for comfort, things of this life, health etc. of little importance in comparison to salvation.

    Assuming one can pray in some way that really does impact the salvation of another, is this also then what we ask the Saints to do on our behalf ?

    As one who comes from fundamentalist protestant roots I try to understand this.


  3. John Avatar

    “Triradiate Master of worlds”

    Hahaha, wow! Tri – radiate MASTER of worlds…is there no bound to the awesome metaphors we Orthodox will come up with to describe the unapproachable One? I hope not.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    I think in this case the vocabulary is driven by the needs of translation. St. Nikolai’s poems are in Serbian which, like everything else, does not always go smoothly into English. I have seen some amazing attempts at English in various translations of Akathist Hymns. English is slightly impoverished when it comes to Trinitarian terms – which makes me wonder why.

  5. Steve Avatar

    Alleluia. Christ is the one true light, LORD over all.

  6. zoe Avatar

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen for this post. The prayer is very touching, beautiful and profound. We are given by God a gift of utterance (speech) and how many times in a single minute, I misuse this gift from God knowingly and unknowingly, intentionally and unintentionally in dealing with people around me. The prayer reminds me that I can use the gift of words and speech in praise of God and in prayer and offer it back to Him who gives us all things.
    There are other people who are born or through physical injuries or aging process (victims of car accidents or strokes) unable to speak words–are these the people that St. Nikolai of Zicha refers to in his prayer? I just now realized in reading this post that I never thought of these specific group of humanity when praying to God. May God forgive me.

    Father Bless.

  7. John Avatar

    Maybe things wouldn’t be so hard if we still used Elizabethan English.

    I actually like the word “Triradiate.” It’s not a word, but still, I like it.

  8. fatherstephen Avatar

    I don’t dislike it – but it sounds better in Greek and Slavonic (sort of).

  9. John Avatar

    I bet it does sound better.


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