Practice Daily Prayer in the Celtic Tradition: Day 29 of the Pray-May Challenge

We are almost done our 31 day prayer challenge, and I’ve been waiting to introduce you to Celtic Daily Prayer. In this wonderful tradition, people gather together (if possible) morning, noon and evening to pray through a a collection of prayers, Scriptures and meditations. The community at Northumbria produced this prayer guide in order to share with others the central liturgy of their community. I’m very thankful for them.

I have found this prayer book to be a terrific resource. We have used it as a family around the table, as a church for weekend retreats, as well as for personal prayer times. I love the rhythm of this liturgy, the way the prayers work deep into your heart and mind (as you use them more and more), going with you throughout your day, and bringing you back again.

For those unaccustomed to recited prayers, it will be new and invigorating, even if the strangeness of it may take some getting used to. For others more familiar, it will re-introduce you to practices you may have forgotten.

For Day 29, I challenge you to do two things: 
  1. First, go over to the Northumbria Community website, and read the page describing how to use this prayer book (they call it “Praying the Daily Office”).
  2. Second, pray the morning, midday and evening prayers, which can be either on the page I just linked you to, or by following these links:

This is a resource you will want to come back to, and so I am going to minimize my own words today, encouraging you instead to dive deep into the Northumbria Community and experience all the Spirit has for you through them. Keep coming back to this site, and consider buying the Celtic Daily Prayer book for yourself and your family.

That’s all for today. And with the words of blessing which conclude the Celtic Morning Prayer, I send you: 

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Day 4 of the Pray-May Challenge: Pray the Lorica

Welcome to Day 4 of our prayer journey. Are you ready for a little stretch?

Yesterday, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus taught us to conclude our conversation with the Father with a final petition for deliverance from evil or the evil one. Prayers for protection and deliverance have been a daily reality for Christians down through the centuries–we’ve needed it, and we still do. Like it or not, there’s a battle going on.

The “Lorica” is a prayer for protection, derived from the Latin word for “armour” or “breastplate” and emerging as a prayer around the 5th century. Just as a breastplate surrounds and protects the body, so, too, we ask for God’s encircling protection.  Though there are various loricas within the Christian monastic and Celtic traditions, they are rooted in passages such as Ephesians 6:10-20, where we are told to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”

And so, our brothers and sisters would pray “loricas”, reciting prayers for protection on a daily basis as well as in times of distress. You can find out more about loricas here.

The most famous of these loricas is The Lorica of St. Patrick or, as it is often called, St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  The original version is quite long and culturally bound, but more accessible, relevantly-rich adaptations have been offered.

The Lorica of St. Patrick forms a ready prayer of protection we can pray for ourselves and for each other. I first found parts of it mixed in with the morning prayers of The Celtic Daily Prayer book, which I so love. After some research, I found a version of St. Patrick’s Lorica here which I felt we could pray with great benefit on day 4 of our prayer challenge.

So here it is. This may be a very new way to pray for you, or you may be very familiar with ancient prayers. Either way, let’s pray this prayer of protection today, knowing that in doing so, we are praying to the One who surrounds and guards us.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Isn’t that a wonderful prayer? Now that you’ve prayed through it once, feel free to go back over it. Some of you may even want to print it off, or write it out in a prayer journal for later, or even daily, use.

But this prayer need not only be recited–it can also be sung.

Steve Bell offers us a wonderful version of the Lorica, composed by Gayle Salmond. I’ve listened to the Lorica on Steve’s recordings as well as live performances, and each time I’m drawn to its beauty and power. I’ve inserted the full lyrics below (which, as you will hear, alters the above prayer), and you’ll love hearing Steve perform it. You can find out more about Steve Bell here, which I strongly encourage you to do.

I’m praying for you today, for your protection and your peace. And so, Lord Jesus, who is with us and within us, behind us and before us, we do bind to ourselves today the Name, the Strong Name of the Trinity, knowing that you are our Protector and our Breastplate. Amen.

The Lorica – Music and Lyric by Gayle Salmond

I bind unto myself today

The gift to call on the Trinity

The saving faith where I can say

Come three in one, oh one in three

Be above me, as high as the noonday sun

Be below me, the rock I set my feet upon

Be beside me, the wind on my left and right

Be behind me, oh circle me with Your truth and light

I bind unto myself today

The love of Angels and Seraphim

The prayers and prophesies of Saints

The words and deeds of righteous men

God’s ear to hear me

God’s hand to guide me

God’s might to uphold me

God’s shield to hide me

Against all powers deceiving

Against my own unbelieving

Whether near or far

I bind unto myself today

The hope to rise from the dust of earth

The songs of nature giving praise

To Father, Spirit, Living Word