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

Gas attacks on God’s Images: How can we pray through the choke of Sarin?

I nearly threw up watching. The image of a man, gasping for air, dying in the streets of Khan Sheikhun, Syria. And I confess, to my shame, that I looked away. Jesus, forgive me.

When I had the courage, I turned back, mind reeling from the latest atrocity committed against God’s human images in Syria.

Babies. Men. Children. Women. People God loves so deeply eradicated so mercilessly. Sarin gas robbing them of precious breath, their last moments of life filled with pain. Lord Jesus, how can we respond to this crime, to this crisis?

One resident tragically describes what he saw:

“I found children lying on the ground, in their last breaths, their lips going blue,” said Abu al-Baraa, who lives nearby and rushed to help when the full extent of what had happened dawned on him.

Standing across the street from the crater left by the missile, he added: “People on the rooftops and in the basements. People on the ground in the street. Wherever you looked there were dead human beings.” – from The Guardian, April 6, 2017.

He couldn’t just look away. He couldn’t just click the “x”. He wasn’t able to just move on with his day. Neither should we.

A victim of an attack in the Syrian province of Idlib at a hospital in Reyhanli, Turkey, on Tuesday. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag of Turkey was quoted as saying that autopsies conducted on three Syrians brought to his country after the attack showed they had been subjected to a chemical agent. From the New York Times, April 6, 2017. Picture Credit: Associated Press

Responses are coming fast and furious, from air strikes to medical teams to political posturing to stories of blame. Rightful outrage sparked throughout the media. Confusion in the chaos.

But there is one response we must make, as God’s people. Whatever we do, we cannot not pray. We must pray, pray, pray for God’s Spirit to brood over that chaos, for God’s Spirit to bring mercy and justice and grace and peace to a land so fraught with pain and destruction. To pray for life to spring up, to overcome this death, to bring healing and peace to Syria.

When I considered my own prayer–and then our collective prayer–I begin with the words Jesus taught us pray, that the Father’s “kingdom would come and his will would be done” so that we will not be lead into temptation, but delivered from evil and the evil one. Praying the Lord’s prayer can seem so terrifically inadequate at these times, but it’s not. Prayer must be the foundation of our response, so that what we then say or do in response to this evil is shaped by our prior understanding of God’s presence and power. Whatever is said or done by the powers that be, from the US to Russia to Syria itself, we speak as a people under a higher political authority, belonging to a kingdom that is greater, a kingdom to whom all earthly kingdoms will give an account. And we pray for this kingdom to reign, on earth as it is in heaven.

May I offer a prayer right now?

“Lord Jesus, who created each of us, living for us and dying for us and rising for us, hear our prayer today! May your peace and justice reign on this broken, troubled earth. May your people act in the power of your forgiveness and grace, when we are so tempted to strike out in hatred and retaliation. May your people stand for life, as you have called us to stand. May your grace be evident to these families in Syria, who have experienced so much loss.  And may your church rise up, from the rubble and from the world, to pray, to serve, to give and to speak, for the sake of these ones you love. May your kingdom, Father, come here on this blood-soaked, sarin-gassed soil.  May your will be done from the halls of our power to the streets of our towns. We confess that we are ignorant of so much, but you are not. We confess that we are inadequate in our response–show us your ways to respond. Lead us, Lord, into your path of life, and deliver us–deliver your children in Syria, your children in Khan Sheikhun–from the evil one.”

Our hearts are sick. So I’m asking you: Will you pray for the people of Syria?

Maybe you have questions about why prayer matters, about why prayer in the face of such evil even counts? If you do, I’d like you refer you back to something I wrote last June called “Evil keeps pounding but we keep praying.” In this post, I give four reasons I keep praying in the face of evil, and I hope you will find it helpful.

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer and have mercy. 

Don’t give the devil more credit than he’s due

While the devil tries to destroy our lives, we often blame him for things we should be taking responsibility for.

The devil isn’t responsible for everything that goes wrong.

Now don’t get me wrong: I believe there’s a devil.  Not the horned dude in red tights or the diabolical joker from Far Side hell, but a personal, powerful being who has set himself against all that is good and God’s in the world, destroying and deceiving wherever and whomever he can.

That said, I think we sometimes give him way too much credit.

Wedding cake visual metaphor with figurine cake toppers
Royalty-Free StockPhoto (Rubberball)

A marriage starts to blow up, and the devil gets the blame for destroying it. Maybe . . . or maybe selfishness did that without any help from him.

Health problems surface, and somehow it’s an attack from the evil one. Possibly, or perhaps our bodies really are broken and waiting for resurrection?

division
Google images

Division sets into a local church, and it’s deemed a sign of spiritual oppression. It could be. But what if the division was created by poor leadership? Or hard hearts? I’m sure the devil’s cheering us on, but causing it? Maybe not.

 

A child is killed in an accident. Listen. The devil loves that stuff; he cheers on death because he’s deluded by it’s power. But he didn’t necessarily, or even likely, cause the tragedy. Accidents happen, forces collide, people fall asleep at the wheel, roads get slippery, mistakes are made, vehicles break down.  We live in a broken world, and in the midst of brokenness we long toward the time when all will finally be well, in the resurrection and new creation. But we aren’t there yet.

Next time you hear someone say “Satan’s working overtime in our family, in our church, in our town,” question it. Is that true? Or has the devil become an easy scapegoat, keeping us from actually confessing and repenting for ways we have contributed to the problem. (And by the way, the devil’s more than happy to take the blame if that keeps us from dealing with reality so we repent and change.)

So what should you do when you suspect this might be happening? Two things:

First, do pray against the work of the evil one. Jesus taught us to pray “deliver us from evil” or “from the evil one.”  We are in a war with the evil one, and we must be attentive and aware of his schemes. All that is true. As James 4:7 commands us, when we “submit ourselves to the Lord” and then “resist the devil”, he flees from us.

Lead us not, deliver usBut pray the whole prayer: before we ask for deliverance from evil, we ask that we not be lead into temptation, remember? And for the purposes of this post, I’d like to suggest that one of our temptations is to assume the devil’s handiwork when it well might be our own.

Then, secondly, ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight, so that you can know what is really going on. If it’s Satanic, then fight it appropriately. If it’s sin, confess it and change. If it’s the harsh reality of a broken and not yet redeemed world, then lean into God’s goodness and continue to trust his leadership through the difficulty. But let the Spirit guide you toward wisdom, so that we can live and respond from faith and not from delusion.

Does the devil attack us? Yes. “For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe,” as Martin Luther wrote generations ago. But let’s not give him more credit than he’s due. We’ve got plenty of responsibility to take, and by doing so, we will see God’s goodness flow into broken situations, bringing healing and restoration where there had previously been only pain and denial.

Have you experienced situations where human responsibility was ignored because the devil was blamed?