I summon today...
all these powers between me and those evils,
against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul…
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
“I summon today…”
In this new stanza, the Breastplate Prayer moves us in part toward a summary or collection of everything we have prayed so far while also inviting us to personally claim “all these powers” as our own, that through all these means God would stand between us and every evil, cruel or merciless power that may oppose our bodies and souls.
What are “these powers” which we may summon or call upon so boldly? Such a small word, “these”, draws our attention back to the mighty strength of Triune God made manifest in countless ways.
Today we not only arise in, but we actively summon strength, obedience, service, hope, prayers, predictions, preaching, faith, innocence, righteous deeds, light, radiance, splendor, speed, swiftness, depth, stability, firmness, might, wisdom, God’s eye, God’s ear, God’s word, God’s hand, God’s shield, and God’s host.
Talk about calling down angel armies. In his discussion of our suffering and weakness in Romans 8, Paul writes,
So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?
- Romans 8:31-32 (CEB)
Indeed, if God freely gave up the life of his own son for our redemption, is there anything God would withhold? That is why we not only arise with an awareness of these truths, but also boldly summon these powers in prayer so that we might stand against the forces of evil in our world. We don’t simply believe that God will strengthen us, hear us, or protect us. We actively call upon God to step in and intervene in our lives with all these powers at God’s disposal.
This is not a “name it, claim it” kind of theology. We are not saying that in summoning these powers we will be spared from all pain or suffering in our lives. We are not claiming a guaranteed victory over all of the things that stand in our way. It may be, in fact, that some things which stand in our way are necessary for our own spiritual growth and humility.
All of these powers, however, do give us strength, hope and wisdom in the midst of whatever we may face in life. God also calls us to summon these powers on behalf of others who suffer oppression in many forms, that we may stand in the gap for them as Moses does when he pleads for the people of Israel (Exodus 32-33).
The remainder of this stanza unpacks the nature of the various evils which may oppose us, but for now, let us take some time to read back through the prayer and reflect on these gifts of strength and power which God so freely offers to us as we seek to live in obedience and faithfulness to our Creator.
1. As you reflect on the list of powers throughout this prayer, which one do you need to summon most today and why?
2. What, if any difference do you see between “arising” in these powers and actually “summoning” them to stand between you and evil?
3. Which of these powers may God be calling you to summon on behalf of someone else in your life and how will you do that this week?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
... I summon today all these powers…
…Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul