What Is St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer?
By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
A prayer with a special purpose has been attributed to one of the world’s most beloved saints. For centuries, people have been praying that prayer to ask for God’s help. St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer incorporates timeless wisdom into its words. We can use this ancient prayer today to invite God’s power into any situation.
What Is the Origin of St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer?
According to Catholic tradition, St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer originated in 433 AD when St. Patrick wrote it to ask for God’s help before he met with Irish King Lóegaire to share the Gospel. Patrick had reportedly heard that the king had ordered his men to ambush him before the meeting, so he wrote this bold prayer asking for God’s protection. Patrick’s meeting with King Lóegaire went well, and Patrick went on to lead the Irish people away from paganism and into relationships with Jesus. Some scholars now think St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer could have instead been written in the 8th century by an anonymous author and retroactively associated with Patrick’s historic meeting with King Lóegaire. Regardless of whether or not Patrick actually wrote the breastplate prayer that is often attributed to him, Patrick’s life showed the power of prayer at work, so having his name attached to the prayer makes it famous around the world.
What Is St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer?
St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer is a prayer for God’s protection, written in the ancient “Lorica” style. The word “lorica” means “breastplate.” Lorica prayers were written by Christians to ask God to protect them from evil. Just as a breastplate is a garment worn for protection in battle, Lorica prayers are recited to ask for victory during spiritual warfare. Knights who lived centuries ago would often inscribe Lorica prayers on their protective armor (such as their shields) and recite them before going into battle. Christians today continue to pray Lorica prayers for God’s protection during the spiritual warfare battles they encounter.
The Bible describes the importance of putting on spiritual armor for protection, in Ephesians 6:10-18: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
The full text of St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer, translated from the original old Irish into English, is:
“I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness of the Creator of creation.
I arise today through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
through the strength of his descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim
in obedience of angels, in the service of the archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of patriarchs, in predictions of prophets,
in preaching of apostles, in faiths of confessors,
in innocence of holy virgins, in deeds of righteous men.
I arise today, through the strength of heaven:
light of sun, brilliance of moon, splendor of fire,
speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea,
stability of earth, firmness of rock.
I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of demons, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and these evils:
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ. May your salvation, Oh Lord, be ever with us.”
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Kateryna Kovarzh
3 Important Things We Can Learn from This Prayer
St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer is a powerful example of how to pray well. Here are three important lessons we can learn from this prayer.
1. Prayer welcomes God’s mighty strength into any situation we encounter. In both the beginning and end of the prayer, Patrick emphasizes God’s “mighty strength”, and the entire prayer speaks about the power of prayer. My book Wake Up to Wonder includes research that supports what the Bible says about the benefits of prayer, including how we can access strength from God when we pray. Philippians 4:6-7, 13 encourages us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. … I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Even in situations where we’re not sure God will answer our prayers, it’s still worthwhile to pray. We can always count on God responding, in the best ways, at the best times. God’s promises are reliable in all circumstances, no matter how he chooses to answer our prayers. Patrick’s breastplate prayer reminds us that, by communicating with God, we can connect with his mighty power to help us with whatever we need.
2. Praying specifically rather than generally can build our faith in God. St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer is quite specific. Rather than a general request for God’s protection, this prayer includes thorough details about many topics: Different aspects of God’s strength, various types of angels and souls in our spiritual family, myriad kinds of dangers from which we need protection, and many ways we can count on Jesus to be present with us. Jesus assures us that God cares about every small detail of our lives. He says in Matthew 10:29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” By praying specifically, we’re reminding ourselves that God can help us with every detail of our lives, which deepens our trust in God and strengthens our faith as a result.
3. We can pray boldly, with confidence, that God will respond. This famous prayer is a bold one. It encourages us to call upon God’s power to help us with full confidence that God will indeed do so. Hebrews 4:16 assures us: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer points to the fact that God is completely trustworthy in all circumstances, and we can rely on his unlimited power whenever we need help.
St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer is an ancient prayer that continues to inspire people today. Whenever we need God to protect us, we can pray through St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer or adapt it to whatever circumstances we’re facing. This famous prayer is a powerful example of how to communicate with God in ways that welcome his mighty strength into our lives. It also encourages us to pray specifically and boldly, trusting that God will answer our prayers by protecting us well.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/mrdoomits
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.