Patrick's Confession (6)
And I was not a worthy or a fit person for what the Lord granted me, his minor servant: that after such calamities and such great burdens, after captivity, after many years, He should bestow on me, in relation to that people, so much that I had never hoped for or thought of in my youth.
But after I had arrived in Ireland, I found myself pasturing flocks daily, and I prayed a number of times each day. More and more the love and fear of God came to me, and faith grew and my spirit was exercised, until I was praying up to a hundred times every day and in the night nearly as often. So that I would remain in the woods annd on the mountain in snow, frost and rain, waking to pray before first light. And I felt no ill effect, nor was I in any way sluggish - because as I now realise, the Spirit was seething within me.
Translation: Liam De Paor, St. Patrick's World
Patrick resumes the story of his captivity which he began earlier. His work in Ireland involved tending flocks, and he appears to have been dutiful in his assigned task. It seems that he early on began to consider that his captivity was a judgment from the Lord for a wasted youth, and so he began to seek the Lord in prayer. He does not tell us specifically what he was praying for, but it certainly was not for some kind of ministry to the Irish people. He "never hoped for or thought" about doing anything for his captors. Most likely his prayers were for forgiveness, safety, and deliverance from the judgment which had befallen him.
Patrick must have found prayer a sweet discipline, for he persisted and increased in it, until he was veritably praying without ceasing. Note the effect of his prayer: Patrick increased in both the love and fear of God. His faith grew. His spirit "was exercised," which I take to mean that his soul grew stronger in its various components - heart, mind, conscience. He delighted to seek the Lord in prayer, and he acknowledges that even this was a work of God in him. The Spirit of God, he admits, "was seething" within him.
In the midst of judgment God worked on the heart of Patrick, turning him from indifference to zeal, from neglect to discipline, from the frivolity of youth to the patient earnestness that would serve him in his mission among the Irish. When God is preparing men for His service, He first sets them to seeking Him, which they do in prayer. They may not even be praying in line with God's ultimate purpose for their lives, as Patrick was not. But God can use a seeking heart, as His Spirit seethes within and makes one open to the call of the Lord, however unlikely or extraordinary that call may be.
Patrick came to see his calling and ministry as an astonishing gift of God, for which he was not in the least "a worthy or fit person." What Patrick would learn was that God prepares the hearts and provides for the needs of those He calls to the work He has appointed for them. And He prepares them for that work by setting them to seeking Him in prayer, not so that they compromise their appointed tasks - Patrick was "in no way sluggish" about tending the sheep - but so that prayer and seeking the Lord become inextricably entwined with all their daily routines and responsibilities. One whose faith grows and whose soul becomes strengthened through seeking the Lord will be ready for whatever the Lord calls him to as the next step in his journey of faith.