The Celtic Revival: Patrick (3)
But after I to Ireland came I found
myself a slave, and pastured sheep around
the hills and meadows in the west. You can
imagine my despair, my sorrow, and
my loneliness, a boy of sixteen years.
My days were filled with toil, my nights with fears.
And so I turned to prayer to find relief
in God, although I had not made belief
my firm conviction as of yet. I prayed
throughout the day, and many times I stayed
awake, beseeching God to pity me.
I found the love and fear of God to be
advancing in my soul; my faith began
to grow, and I began to understand
that God was working in my spirit. I
would pray a hundred times each day, and by
the light of moon and stars, as often, too.
I found through prayer a pleasant means to do
my work without complaint or fear, and would
remain out on the mountain and in the woods
through snow or frost or rain. I rose to pray
before the morning light appeared each day,
and suffered no adversity, nor was
I sluggish in my work. It was because
the Spirit of the living God was in
me seething, freeing me from fear and sin.
- Patrick, Confession (5th century)
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
- Jeremiah 33.3
The Celtic Revival that began with Patrick became a powerful movement of God’s Spirit, spreading over most of Europe that, in the words of Thomas Cahill, saved civilization. It lasted for nearly four centuries and revived complacent believers, renewed moribund churches, and brought awakening to unbelieving peoples all over Europe.
That powerful movement for revival, renewal, and awakening began in prayer, specifically, in the prayers of a frightened, convicted, lonely slave boy, who came to know that God was working in his spirit.
A slave in Ireland, Patrick had no Bible, no pastor to counsel or instruct him, no free time for spiritual retreat or rest, no fellow believers to support and sustain him, and not much background in the faith to guide or direct him.
What Patrick did have, was the sense to seek the Lord in prayer.
In prayer, Patrick found relief from despair, sorrow, loneliness, and fear. At the beginning, he still did not fully believe in God, but he knew that, if any help was to be found for him, it would have to come from God. He believed enough in God to remember something of what he’d been taught about prayer. Prayer was his only recourse to God, so he turned to prayer with a dedication few of us have ever known.
And for six long years, he prayed without ceasing, seeking only the Lord, and whatever He might have in store for him.
He felt the Spirit of God "seething" within him. The more he prayed, the more prayer became his way of life. He prayed throughout the day, without compromising any of his work; and he prayed at night, as many as a hundred times during those cold, lonely nights in the Wood of Foclut.
He says he found through prayer a powerful means to do his work without complaint or fear, and that he often delighted to remain out even in harsh weather to spend time with the Lord in prayer. He prayed first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and through all the time in between.
We cannot imagine such devotion to prayer. Our own prayers are typically short and reserved to a particular time of the day – early morning, before meals, or as we retire. We know that Paul commands us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5.17), and that Jesus said we should pray always, and not grow weary (Lk 18.1), but we don’t take either of them seriously. We have no difficulty continuing to breathe throughout the day, as we do our work, engage in various relationships, or carry out all kinds of tasks. But it never occurs to us that prayer might be as important as breathing.
We don’t have to learn to breathe, but we dare not stop – not for too long, anyway.
But we must learn to pray, and to pray without ceasing, so that, as breath brings life to our bodies, prayer will bring life and renewal to our souls.
Patrick learned to delight in prayer. We can learn that, too. And the more we delight in prayer, the more we will pray, and the more the Spirit of God will seethe in us. And the more too, we, like Patrick, will encourage others to seek the Lord as well. And as our prayers increase, we may expect the Lord to show us great and mighty things, beyond anything we’ve ever dared to ask or think.
He may even bring revival and awakening in our day, just as He did in Patrick’s.
Patrick prayed, and God moved powerfully. This is his greatest legacy to us. Let’s make sure we don’t squander it.
Psalm 42.1-8 (Nettleton: Come Thou Fount)
As the deer pants for fresh water let my soul, Lord, pant for You!
Let my soul thirst as it ought to for the Savior, ever true!
Tears by day have been my portion, tears by night have been my food,
While my foes add to my sorrow, saying, “Where now is your God?”
Now I pour my soul out in me as these thoughts come to my mind.
And I long to once again be where true worship I might find.
Oh my soul, be not despairing! Hope in God, and praise His Name!
For the Lord, your burden bearing, will restore your peace again.
Oh my God, my soul is weary, therefore I remember You.
Let Your grace and goodness near be, and Your promise, firm and true.
Lord, when trials and fears surround me, Your commands will be my song;
When distresses sore confound me, Your great love will keep me strong.
Lord, I want to pray like Patrick, and like Jesus and Paul said I should. Please help me…
Men to Stand in the Gap
Parameters of Prayer
Want some help learning to pray? Sign-up for our free course, Parameters of Prayer, and learn to pray like Patrick did (click here to register).
Like Patrick, we depend on the Lord to support our ministry, which He does through friends who pray for us and share their gifts with us, as the Lord leads. As you pray today, ask the Lord whether He might use you to support this work. You can do so by clicking the Contribute buttonat our website, or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Thank you.
T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.