I think one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Christian faith in the Western World is prayer. It has become a literal litany of wishes and desires, completely devoid of the closeness and conversation with the Divine. We have simply made the prayer a one way conversation of things we want. We “name it and claim it” without even really understanding what “it” is. Very few take a portion of prayer time in silence to hear what the Spirit may be saying to them. In Celtic Spirituality, not only is prayer a two way conversation but a sacred assembly of God and human. It is an opportunity to converse with the almighty. Prayer was never a means to an end with the Celtic Christian. Prayers was the means in which man could both give and receive words with the God of the Universe.
Preparation for Prayer
Prayer was so very important that it was a thing that required preparation to do. Carmichael discusses this preparation as he describes an incantation used before prayer in Scotland:
“OLD people in the Isles sing this or some other short hymn before prayer. Sometimes the hymn and the prayer are intoned in low tremulous unmeasured cadences like the moving and moaning, the soughing and the sighing, of the ever-murmuring sea on their own wild shores.
They generally retire to a closet, to an outhouse, to the lee of a knoll, or to the shelter of a dell, that they may not be seen nor heard of men. I have known men and women of eighty, ninety, and a hundred years of age continue the practice of their lives in going from one to two miles to the seashore to join their voices with the voicing, of the waves and their praises with the praises of the ceaseless sea.” (Carmichael, 1900)
Rune Before Prayer
I AM bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
The eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through Thine own Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God,
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God
To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven; Each shade and light each day and night each time in kindness
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.
A True Difference in Intent
What is truly different about these prayers and preparations for prayers is almost glaring. Note how the prayer asks for nothing. This preparatory portion is focused and on acknowledgement and a desire to draw close to God, not the things God could provide. There is a strong desire for relationship with God above the tangible. With this preparation, a true desire to see prayer time be a time of communion, not a wish list on Santa’s lap. The intent of prayer is clear, to draw near to God. To seek the love of God, and to discern the will of God for oneself and others was the focus. If only we could pray in a way that seeks Gods voice, instead of Gods things.
The Will of God to do on The Will of the Three
This is where the prayers of the Celtic tradition and the West diverge the most in my opinion. The crux of the preparation of prayer was simply that Gods will be done for the betterment of the world. Our western prayers tend to focus on the will of man, hoping God will somehow bend Gods will to meet our own. But if we truly believe in a universal God, this will never be true. In effect our prayer is un answerable when we see this. The next time you pray, consider meeting with God beforehand, asking that the result of the prayer benefit the world, instead of your bank account or health. You will be amazed how intimate prayer is when its not about you!
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