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  • Writer's pictureRalph Felzer

OUR BREASTPLATE IN TROUBLED TIMES



"Waybread" is food designed to strengthen travelers on a long journey.  This little weekly column is intended to offer reflections that will strengthen and encourage you in your own long journey in following Christ.


OUR BREASTPLATE IN TROUBLED TIMES 

This week's Waybread is dedicated to those who are carrying especially long or heavy burdens.  You have a great grief or sorrow or weight you have suffered under for many "miles." If you're weak and weary, distraught and discouraged, hopeful or hopeless, I hope you find sustenance here.


The journey of life has a way of "taking it out of you," doesn't it?  And these days it seems there is more than the usual amount of trouble and sorrow and suffering.  What's more, the more of this we face, and the longer the struggle continues, the easier it is for that struggle to consume our hearts and our vision; it clouds our hope, our view of not only what our life is meant to be beyond or on the other side of our trouble, but of who God is and of His power to save, rescue, and redeem us from all our weariness and pain.  Take heart, friend, our God is greater than our trouble.  Remember in this Lenten season that, though we focus on pain and loss, on suffering and on death, He is risen.  He is risen indeed, and He stands in the presence of the Father interceding for you even as you read this.

Take heart, friend, our God is greater than our trouble.

Phil spoke last Sunday about St. Patrick, and Jean led us in a prayer through what is known as St. Patrick's Breastplate.  I shared about this in our small group last night, and I want to share some of my thoughts with the rest of you today.  I pray that if you're in the midst of trouble, you'll find strength and hope in these words.


If I were sitting across a table from you, face to face, sharing a cup of coffee together (if that sounds good, reach out, let's do it!), I'd go into more detail about this, but if you're one of those in a hard or a dark place I want you to find help and hope in St. Patrick's prayer.  (It's pretty long, but I've included the text of the whole thing at the end of today's piece.)

Two things to help guide you through the prayer:  First, the phrase "I bind myself today" occurs several times at the beginning of most of the stanzas.  In the Old Testament, people were to keep the words and the promises of God bound to their hands, their foreheads, even their doorposts.  They were always to be "tethered" to God's word, His promises in order that they would become part of the fabric of their thinking, relating, and living in the world.  In the same way, "I bind myself today" is our way of reminding ourselves, of taking our stand this very morning, of insisting that no matter what my circumstances or moods may say, these are the truths, this is the foundation, I affirm and trust in."


Second, the word "virtue" as we usually use it means some great personal trait or characteristic, like courage or perseverance or loyalty.  But for St. Patrick it means what it did in the old days: power, strength, effectiveness.  For example, if you know much about plants and gardens you might talk about the "virtues" of certain herbs, that is, they have the ability to soothe or stimulate or heal.  So, when St. Patrick talks about binding to himself the virtue of the Incarnation, the crucifixion, the Resurrection, etc., he's reminding himself to stand strong and confident in the power, the truth, and the effectiveness of God as we see it manifested in those marvelous events.


The last thing I'd like to say is that this is called "the Breastplate" for a reason.  It should remind you of the armor of God that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6.  It's armor, protection, strength, refuge, and safety available to us in the very thickest of life's battles–and we're certainly fighting our battles these days, aren't we?

[It] is called "the Breastplate" for a reason.  It should remind you of the armor of God that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6.  It's armor, protection, strength, refuge, and safety available to us in the very thickest of life's battles.

So with that said, may I lead you in a prayer through one small section of the Breastplate?  I'd like to do this in order to show you how to use a prayer like this (or even better, a passage of Scripture that speaks to your situation, no matter what it is, however difficult or joyful) in your day to day life.  It'll awaken and energize your prayers!


Let's start by praying through this stanza:

I bind to myself today

God's Power to guide me,

God's Might to uphold me,

God's Wisdom to teach me,

God's Eye to watch over me,

God's Ear to hear me,

God's Word to give me speech,

God's Hand to guide me,

God's Way to lie before me,

God's Shield to shelter me,

God's Host to secure me….


"Lord, I'm reminded this morning of Your great Power and Might.  Would You guide me and uphold me today through my struggle with __________?  My own power and might are shallow and flimsy and nowhere near enough for me to tackle what I face.


"Father, grant me Your wisdom, teach me what I need to know in order to think and live rightly in the light of this __________ burden I face today.


"Would You watch over me, and listen to my prayers, not even just the words but the cry of my heart beneath all the words.  In fact, give me the words I need to cry out for Your help and direction.


"Let Your hand rest on me.  Take hold of my shoulder or my hand to direct my way, and open my eyes to behold the path that you've opened before me, however little of it I may see.  I confess that I can't see my way through this ___________ that I face.


"Jesus, I'm not up to the struggle today, but all the same I stand not in my own strength, and not in my own virtue, but in Yours.  Guide me, direct my steps.  Grant me all the resources I need in order to navigate my way through this stormy sea.  Give me shelter, safety, security from all harm and destruction." 


I hope you can see how we just went through St. Patrick's words and used them as inspiration for bringing our own moods and circumstances to God.  We don't have to search for the perfect words because we can use Patrick's to help guide us.  The prayers, and the needs behind the prayers, are still all uniquely ours, Patrick is just teaching us to pray.


And don't pray the way I pray, pray the way you pray!  There's no one right way to do this.  You may even pray through the same stanza in an entirely different way tomorrow than you did this morning.  You may not even get through the whole stanza–just dwell where you need to dwell, and take strength, encouragement, and inspiration where you find it.  And trust God with the rest.


You can do this with any–or all–of the stanzas in the Breastplate.  You can do this with any passage of Scripture.  I believe your life of prayer and intimacy with God will be forever enriched and deepened when you draw near to Him in this way.  Please let me know in the Comments below how this goes for you, and if you'd like to talk–or pray!–through it, just say the word.


Be encouraged, friend, for God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, who spoke all worlds into being, is both with you and for you.


ST. PATRICK'S BREASTPLATE



I bind to myself todayThe strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:I believe the Trinity in the UnityThe Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself todayThe virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His 

Baptism,The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,The virtue of His Resurrection with His

Ascension,The virtue of His coming on the Judgment Day.

I bind to myself todayThe virtue of the love of seraphim,In the obedience of angels,In the hope of resurrection unto reward,In prayers of Patriarchs,In predictions of Prophets,In preaching of Apostles,In faith of Confessors,In purity of holy Virgins,In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself todayThe power of Heaven,The light of the sun,The brightness of the moon,The splendor of fire,The flashing of lightning,The swiftness of wind,The depth of sea,The stability of earth,The compactness of rocks.


I bind to myself today

God's Power to guide me,

God's Might to uphold me,

God's Wisdom to teach me,

God's Eye to watch over me,

God's Ear to hear me,

God's Word to give me speech,

God's Hand to guide me,

God's Way to lie before me,

God's Shield to shelter me,

God's Host to secure me,

   Against the snares of demons,

   Against the seductions of vices,

   Against the lusts of nature,

   Against everyone who meditates injury to me,

   Whether far or near,

   Whether few or with many.


I invoke today all these virtues

Against every hostile merciless power

Which may assail my body and my soul,

Against the incantations of false prophets,

Against the black laws of heathenism,

Against the false laws of heresy,

Against the deceits of idolatry,

Against the spells of women, and smiths, and 

druids,

Against every knowledge that binds the soul of 

man.


Christ, protect me today

Against every poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against death-wound,

That I may receive abundant reward.


Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ at my right, Christ at my left,

Christ in the fort, [i.e., at home]

Christ in the chariot seat, [i.e., travelling by land]

Christ in the stern. [i.e., travelling by water]


Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.


I bind to myself today

The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,

I believe the Trinity in the Unity

The Creator of the Universe.



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