Pat Collins C.M.
In Biblical spirituality the prayer of appreciation is central. Among other things it is a matter of praising God, the giver of all good gifts. This reflection intends to focus on one particular form of praise known as the teruah Yahweh, i.e., the festal shout of victory, which was mentioned in two books, Paul Hinnebusch?s instructive, Praise a Way of Life (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Word of Life, 1976); and Maria Vadia?s Jesus Man of War: His Victory For Those Who Praise Him (Golets, CA: Queenship Company, 2015).
In the Old Testament there were frequent references to battles. Over and over again, the people of God had to contend with armies that were larger and better equipped than they were. But the Israelites had one great advantage. They had confidence that if they were following the Lord?s will, God would be fighting with them. No matter what odds were stacked against them, they would be victorious. There are a number of examples of this. In Ex 14:14 there is a description of how the Jewish people were faced by the might of the Egyptian army. But Moses said to them, ?Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today . . . The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.? In Ps 46:10 the Lord said in similar manner, ?Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.?
So it is not surprising to find that when the Jews marched into battle they would utter what the Bible refers to as the teruah Yahweh. It was a blood curdling war cry which was simultaneously uttered by God and the heavenly hosts and by his soldiers on earth.
the former Isa 42:11-13 says, ?Let the people of Sela sing for joy;
let them shout from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim his praise in the coastlands. The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.? Ps 24:8 adds, ?Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.?
In 2 Kings 6:13-23 we learn how king Aram sent a military force to Dothan to arrest the prophet Elisha. ?When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ?Alas, my lord, what shall we do?? the servant asked. ?Don?t be afraid,? the prophet answered. ?Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.? And Elisha prayed, ?O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.? Then the Lord opened the eyes of the servant?s heart, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.? Implicit in this text is the notion that God, the victorious king, is accompanied by the heavenly hosts. As Ps 91:11 promises, ?God will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.?
· Jewish armies echoed the divine war cry as they went into battle. It was intended to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies. As a semi liturgical chant it was also meant to express their unshakable confidence in the One who would give them the victory. As the Lord said in Zech 4:6-7, "You will succeed, not by military might or by your own strength, but by my spirit.?
In the Bible there are three forms of this kind of anticipatory praise, messianic, paschal and eschatological. The first has to do with the Old Testament when the Jews had intimations of the definitive victory of the messiah to come. The second has to do with the actual victory of Jesus over the enemies of humankind, Satan, sin, suffering and death. The third has to do with anticipating the final and definitive victory of God which will be inaugurated by the second coming of Christ. We will look at each in turn.
The phrase, Messianic praise, refers to praise in the Old Testament that anticipated the liberating coming of Jesus the Messiah. There are many examples of this form of anticipatory praise. We will focus on a number of them in chronological order.
A] The Fall of Jericho.
When the Jews entered the promised land around 1,400 B.C. they came to Jericho which was a few miles East of Jerusalem. Its population of about 1,200 was defended by double walls at the bottom and top of an earthen rampart. The outer wall was six feet thick and about 20?26 feet high. At the top of an earthen rampart was another big wall. The Israelites marched around the walls once every day for seven days with the priests and the Ark of the Covenant. In Josh 6:5 we are told that the Lord said, ?And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat.? When the people did what the Lord had commanded, the walls of Jericho fell down. Archeologists Garstang and Kenyon have found evidence that there was earthquake activity at the time the city met its end. If God used this means to accomplish the divine purposes, it was still a providential miracle which happened at precisely the right moment. As Heb 11:30 says, ?By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.?
B] Gideon and the three hundred
In Judges 7 we are told how Gideon (c. 1191-1144 B.C.) had an army of 32,000 men. The Lord said, ?announce to the army, ?Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.?? So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.? The Lord still thought the army was too big, so he asked Gideon to urge the men to drink from a stream. ?And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, ?With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home? (Jud 7:6-7). When the 300 reached the camp of the enemy Gideon said, ?When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ?For the Lord and for Gideon . . . Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, ?A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!? Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled? (Jud 7:18; 20-21). It seems clear that although the Jewish army was very small, they attacked with a semi liturgical battle cry of victory. It gave expression to their faith conviction that, despite their small numbers, the Lord would give them success. They did not shout in vain, thanks to the help of God they won. In Jud 7:22 we are told that, ?When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.?
C] The victory of King Abijah
In 2 Chron 13 there is another instructive example of the teruwah Yahweh. Around the year 912 B.C. there was a war between Abijah king of Judah and his father Jeroboam king of Israel. Apparently there was a great battle when the army of Judah was outnumbered two to one. Nevertheless, king Abijah said to the Israelites, ?We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him [Jeroboam]. God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. Men of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed." Things looked bad during the battle, because the army of Judah was being attacked from the front and the rear. We are told in 2 Chron 13:14-15, ?Then they cried out to the Lord. The priests blew their trumpets and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.?
D] King Jehoshaphat?s victory over three invading armies
King Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah for 25 years from 870 - 849 B.C. In 2 Chron 20 we are told that the king received news that his kingdom was about to be attacked by formidable armies. From a military point of view the position looked hopeless. Not surprisingly the king was filled with fear and anxiety. But instead of wrestling with the problem, he nestled by faith in the Lord by means of prayer and fasting. Having poured out his heart to the Lord, Jehosophat waited for a divine response. It came through one of his priests who spoke a word of prophecy. ?Your majesty,? he said, ?and all you people of Judah and Jerusalem, the Lord says you must not be discouraged or afraid to face this large army. The battle depends on God and not on you.? (2 Chron 20:15).
We are told that: ?early in the morning .... As the army set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever." In other words, the priests and musicians led the soldiers in shouting the teruah Yahweh as they marched into battle. The scriptures tell us what happened next, ?As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated? (2 Chron 20:20-22).
E] The victory of the Maccabees
In the second century B.C. the Maccabee brothers fought against those who disrupted their religious practices. They fought against the Gentile king, Lysias who had gathered an army of 60,000 well-trained infantry and 5,000 cavalry. Judas Maccabeus?s army came to meet them with only 10,000 men. When Judas saw how strong the enemy's army was, he prayed, ?We will praise you, Saviour of Israel. You broke the attack of the giant by the hand of your servant David and you let Saul's son Jonathan and the young man who carried his weapons defeat the entire Philistine army. Now in the same way let your people Israel defeat our enemy. Put them to shame, in spite of all their confidence in their infantry and cavalry. Make them afraid; let their bold strength melt away; let them tremble at the prospect of defeat. We love and worship you; so let us defeat our enemies, that we may then sing your praises? (1 Macc 4:20). Once again loud praise of God was the prelude to what was an unexpected Jewish victory from a human point of view.
F] The war cry evolves into the festal shout of praise
We find that when the chosen people had settled down in they modified the battle cry for use in their temple worship. It became the ?festal shout? that is sometimes mentioned in the psalms. For example in Ps 33:1-3, we read, ?Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts (my italics).? Again in Ps 47:1-8 we read: ?Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.....God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.? Ps 89:15 sums up this biblical attitude when it declares, ?Blessed are the people who know the festal shout.? There are a number of examples of the liberating power of the festal shout of victory in the Old and New Testaments.
Firstly, there is the case of the three young Jewish men, who, despite the threats of King Nebuchadnezzar, refused to worship false Gods. Although they were faced with the terrifying prospect of being thrown into a fiery furnace they proclaimed, ?If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.? It is worth noting that the commitment of the young men was unconditional. They knew that God could deliver them, but their faithfulness did not depend on being delivered. When they were thrown into the flames, instead of panicking, they expressed their unshakable faith by praising God. It proved to be the prelude to their remarkable liberation. Suddenly, someone like a child of the gods was seen to be among them. The king was so impressed that he ordered that the three young men should be set free. When they emerged from the flames it was found that they had not been harmed.
Secondly, there is the curious case of the prophet Jonah. He experienced the trauma of being thrown into the sea and being swallowed by a whale. It must have been terrifying to be entombed in the dark, dank interior of this giant creature of the sea. Instead of being frozen with fear and despair, the prophet cried out his praises to the Lord. He said, "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord." And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land? (Jon 2:7-10). The praise of these heroes of faith in the Old Testament anticipated the coming of Jesus the Messiah and the liberating victory he would win for those who believed in him.
Thirdly, as a result of apostasy on the part of many Jews around 612 BC, God allowed them to be afflicted by military and natural disasters. The prophet Habakkuk had a sense that it was a matter of a happy fault, and that where sin abounded, God?s grace would more abound. So in expectant faith he uttered his festal shout in anticipation of future blessing, ?I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places? (Hab 3:16-19).
The expectancy foreshadowed in the Old Testament gave way to fulfillment in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. There are at least two outstanding examples of the teruah Yahweh in the accounts of his passion and death on the cross.
The first, occurred on Palm Sunday. The people greeted Jesus as the Messiah, as a political and military leader like King David of old, who would not only free them from the yoke of oppressive Roman rule but who would also enable the reign of God to reach to the whole world. So they waved palms, shouted raucous praises and chanted lines from Ps 118:25-27, ?Hosanna; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.? I suspect that many people think that hosanna is a word of praise. Not so. In fact it literally means, ?save us.? But the Jews had such confidence that their prayer would be answered that it became a virtual cry of, ?save us Lord, and we are confident that you will.? When some disapproving Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:39-40). In other words Jesus realized that the people?s loud and enthusiastic shouts of praise were prophetic in a way they didn?t consciously appreciate. Their teruah, their festal shout of victory was in fact anticipating the defeat, not of the Romans, but of Satan, by means of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus. As Col 2:15 declares, ?And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.?
There is good reason to believe that Jesus also echoed the festal shout of the people on Palm Sunday, as he died on the cross. Betrayed, denied, and deserted, he even felt abandoned by God when he quoted a line from Ps 22:1, ?My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?? In his book on the psalms, Albert Gelin comments in his book The Psalms are our Prayers (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1964), ?This complaint is not that of a rebel or of someone in despair. It is that of a just man, suffering but yet assured of the love and protection of the all holy God who will accompany him even to death . . . The cry is not, in the Jewish sense, an expression of despair, it does not express revolt, but remains in harmony with the devotion of the Old Testament and, in consequence, expresses a sense of communion with God.? Gelin also points out that if a Jew quoted the first line of a psalm, book or document, he was in virtue of that fact invoking it in its entirety. This would lead us to believe that Jesus silently recited the rest of Ps 22 in his mind. Having expressed his sense of anguish we have reason to believe that he strongly identified with the following words, ?I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! . . . From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows? (Ps 22:22-24). Jesus never lost trust in his Father?s power to save him. As the end of his earthly life approached, he affirmed this truth. We are told that, ?He cried out in a loud voice, Father into your hands I commend my spirit? (Lk 23:46). This was the teruah of Christ, his triumphant, festal cry of victory, which anticipated his glorious resurrection from the dead.
We are living in the last phase of human history. The power of Satan has been broken in principle by the death and resurrection of Jesus. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:55-57, ?Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting . . . thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.? Satan will be finally defeated in practice when Christ returns in glory. No wonder the commonest cry of the early Church was maranatha, i.e., ?Come Lord Jesus? (Rev 22:20). Like the cry of hosanna, it was a prayer of petition which was uttered with such expectant faith that it was transformed into a festal shout of praise. This festal shout of the first Christians anticipated the final and definitive victory of God over the powers of darkness, in human history.
Writing about the second coming of Jesus, St Paul wrote in I Tim 3:1-5, ?But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God? having a form of godliness but denying its power.? In 1 Thess 4:16-17, Paul added, ?the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.? Just as the teruah of Jesus on the cross inaugurated a final victory over Satan, so his great teruah at the end of time will consummate that victory in a definitive way.
When he was still a Cardinal in 1976, John Paul II spoke these prophetic words in Philadelphia, "We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the anti-Christ. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously."
We are currently witnessing apostasy on an unprecedented scale in Europe, including Britain and Ireland. Millions of people are turning their backs on the Church and living as if God does not exist. One is reminded of the words of the Lord in Jer 2:13, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.? The last verse of the book of Judges says, ?In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit? Nowadays it could be adapted to read, ?In our days Britain and Ireland acknowledge no ultimate authority and the citizens do whatever they think is permissible themselves.?
A. According to the Bible, spiritual challenges like these are influenced by the devil. Jesus referred to the evil as ?the ruler of the world? in Jn 12:31, and as, ?the prince of this word? in Jn 14:30. In 1 Jn 5:19 we are told that, ?the whole world is under the control of the evil one.?
B. On one occasion Jesus answered the all important question, why is it that so many do not accept the gospel? He did so by telling the parable of the sower. He said, ?When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path? (Mt 13:19).
C. Although most people know about Jesus and have heard his word, in one way or another, they neither understand or believe. Speaking about them, St Paul observed, "The god of this age [i.e. Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel" (2 Cor 4:4).
However, Paul went on to say in 2 Cor 10:3-5 that, ?For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds 9i.e. of Satan in the mind and heart). We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.? So according to Paul we are involved in spiritual warfare against a formidable enemy. The festal shout not only overcomes the powers of evil, at the same time it calls down the anointing of the Lord on those who praise him. In 2 Chron 5:13-14 we read about a remarkable example of this grace, ?The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: "He is good; his love endures forever." Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.? Where God?s shekhinah glory is present, the evil spirits withdraw into the shadows.
Some charismatic and Pentecostal scholars believe that evil spirits can oppress cities, towns and localities. For instance, in Dan 10:13 we learn that, ?the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.? It is thought that Daniel was describing how he had to contend, for a time, with an evil territorial spirit that was eventually overcome by the archangel Michael, the guardian of the Jewish people.
In chapter six of the The Life of St Francis of Assisi (Charlotte: Tan, 1988) by Saint Bonaventure, there seems to be a clear reference to these oppressive spirits. ?It befell once that he came unto Arezzo at a time when the whole city was shaken by a civil war that threatened its speedy ruin. As he was lodging in the outskirts of the city, he beheld the demons exulting above it, and inflaming the angry citizens to mutual slaughter. Then, that he might put to flight those powers of the air that were stirring up the strife, he sent forward as his herald Brother Silvester, a man of dovelike simplicity, saying: ?Go out before the city gate, and, on behalf of God Almighty, command the demons in the power of obedience to depart with all speed.? The Brother, in true obedience, hastened to perform his Father?s behests, and, coming before the presence of the Lord with thanksgiving, began to cry with a loud voice before the city gate: ?On behalf of God Almighty, . . . depart far from here, all you demons!? At once the city was restored to a state of peace, and all the citizens peacefully and quietly began to fashion anew their civil laws.?
Guidelines for the festal shout of deliverance
In the course of a two day festival of praise in Dublin, in May 2017, there was a prophetic word in which God asked those present to join with sisters and brothers from other churches to proclaim God?s victory over the powers of evil. When we prayed about this prophecy we felt that it was a call to proclaim God?s triumph over the strongholds of evil that influence Irish and British people. In Joel 2:1 we are told that in such circumstances of danger the believers should declare God?s victory over the city, town or locality. ?Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near.?
As a result many men and women from the Christian churches intend to hold praise gatherings on high ground overlooking the places where they live and evangelise in order to utter the festal shout of victory over the spirits of evil which oppress our people. Rather than being intercessory, this form of prayer is mainly declaratory, praising God?s greatness, while affirming Christ?s victory over the powers of darkness. Just as Jesus formed a whip and drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple in Jerusalem, so the risen Jesus lashes out at the evil spirits with the whip of his righteous zeal and indignation while shouting, ?Get out of here! Get out of this city/town/locality.? We the believers, join with him in saying the same thing by means of the festal shout of victory. Here are five points connected with this kind of praise.
Firstly, before the appointed day when God?s victory over evil spirits is declared by means of the festal shout the participants could prepare by means of mourning and prudent fasting (or alternative acts of self-denial). Jesus said in his beatitudes, ?Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted? (Mt 5:4). What our Lord had in mind here was mourning for personal and corporate sin. We need to mourn for the many ways in which people, and especially those of our own locality, have turned their backs on the person and the law of the Lord. In Joel 2:12 the notion of mourning for sin was associated with fasting. It said, ?Yet even now,? declares the Lord, ?return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.? In Dan 10:2-3 we are told that in a such a situation, ?I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips.? So in a permissive age of self indulgence, such as ours, Christians would do well to engage in moderate fasting as a means of making reparation for sin and preparing for the festal shout.
Secondly, when the day of the festal shout of victory arrives, it is uttered with expectant faith. It is a matter of believing that what we desire, i.e. deliverance from evil spirits, is within the centrality of God?s will. That is why Jesus taught us to pray, ?deliver us from the evil one? (Mt 6:13). As 1 Jn 5:14 assures us, ?And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.? Notice that the inspired author does not say we will get what we desire, rather he asserts that we are receiving it.
Thirdly, whether praise is expressed in our native language or in tongues, it should be loud, long and accompanied, if needs be, by such things as the shaking of tambourines, the banging of drums and bodhrans (Irish hand drums), the clanging of symbols, blowing of whistles and the clapping of hands. These can be accompanied by the waving of flags and dancing. As Ps 150:3-5 says, ?Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals.? The author of Sir 43:29-33 adds, ?Where shall we find the strength to praise him? For he is greater than all his works. Terrible is the Lord and very great, and marvelous is his power. When you praise the Lord, exalt him as much as you can; for he will surpass even that. When you exalt him, put forth all your strength, and do not grow weary, for you cannot praise him enough. Who has seen him and can describe him? Or who can praise him as he is??
Fourthly, praises can have a prophetic dimension. Those who are praising God are open to hear God?s revealed word. In Dan 2:20-22 we read, ?God is wise and powerful! Praise him forever and ever. He controls the times and the seasons; he makes and unmakes kings; it is he who gives wisdom and understanding. He reveals things that are deep and secret? which are in accord with the word and will of God. God?s revelation can come in many ways, e.g. by highlighting what spirits to pray against, by means of a relevant scripture text, a meaningful image, vision, mental message, word of knowledge or prophetic words.
Fifthly, praise God by praying and singing in tongues. In Rm 8:26-27 St Paul says that, ?the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.? In this way God, ?is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us? (Eph 3:20).
My personal conviction about the importance of enthusiastic thanksgiving and praise of this kind was nurtured during the troubles in Northern Ireland. Because ecumenically minded Christians seemed to face impossible odds we had to rely solely on God. For example an inter-faith conference was held in Belfast during the general strike of 1977. There was the threat of violence in the streets and of power failures. Nevertheless, over a thousand Protestants and Catholics gathered in Church House in the center of the city for a ?Festival of Praise.? It was a remarkable experience. There was an outburst of strong, sustained praise such as I had never heard before. God?s anointing fell upon us and we were graced with the festal shout, the kind that anticipates the liberating action of God. In a prophecy the Lord called upon us to be united as his army. ?The work and the weapons are one,? God said, ?they are praise.? At that time we had an intimation of the peace that would come to Northern Ireland many years later as a result of the Good Friday agreement.
While one can often see the positive effects of the festal shout when we affirm God?s victory over the powers of darkness in our lives, such as physical and mental illness, addictions, and spiritual oppression, it requires a great deal of faith to believe that cities are being delivered from evil influences even though there may be no visible effects. But we can take refuge in what we read in Lk 10:17-19, ?The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ?Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.?He replied, ?I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.? Having praised God on high ground, we descend to the lower places where people live, in order to proclaim the Gospel of salvation with conviction and effectiveness.
1) One person takes a leadership role. He or she begins by explaining what the festal shout of victory is about while inviting believers in Jesus, Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Orthodox, and Messianic Jews to join him or her in a festal shout of victory event.
2) Those volunteers form an organising committee, ideally with representative members from the Christian churches.
3) Choose a gathering place in the outdoors, ideally on an elevated piece of ground overlooking the city or town. It should not be in a place where the believers would interfere with the activities of the general public. You might have to get permission to do this from the landowner and/or the police. You might also need insurance cover.
4) Choose a date when people would be free to attend.
5) Advertise the praise event e.g.
o Contact people who would be interested by means of the social media,
o Try to have one of the leaders interviewed on local radio about the event,
o Put an add about it in the local paper and in parish newsletters.
6) Encourage the people to bring such things as
o Musical instruments, e.g. tambourines, drums, bodhrans (i.e. hand drums), whistles, a Jewish Shofar etc.
o Flags of different kinds.
o Bibles and hymn books
7) Invite a music group/s to help in leading the praise. Remember there may be no electrical means of amplification. The musicians need to have a spiritual understanding of the festal shout of victory and supplied with suitable hymns for the occasion, e.g. Lift high the banners of love; There are the days of Elijah; He is Lord; Shine Jesus Shine; Jesus name above all Names etc.
8) Have an explanatory, hortatory input about the festal shout. The above notes could be used. They an be purchased from the New Springtime Community (See community website) . A loud hailer will be needed.
9) The length of the praise event should be between an hour and two hours.
10) A picnic could follow or precede the praise which encourages fellowship.
According to tradition, St. Patrick wrote the breastplate attributed to him in 433 A.D. for divine protection before successfully converting the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity. More recent scholarship suggests its author was anonymous. In any case, this prayer certainly reflects the spirit with which St. Patrick brought our faith to Ireland! St. Patrick's Breastplate, also known as The Lorica of Saint Patrick was popular enough to inspire a hymn which was based on this text It is entitled The Deer?s Cr. It was written by Shaun Davey and sung by his wife Rita Connolly.
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's birth 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 the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.
I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The 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 shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.
I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
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;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an 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 when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
When St. Paul referred to putting on the ?Armor of God? in his letter to the Ephesians (6:11) to fight sin and evil inclinations, he could have been thinking of prayers just like this one! We may not wear combat gear in our daily lives, but St. Patrick's Breastplate can function as divine armor for protection against spiritual adversity.
New Springtime Intercession
NEW SPRINGTIME PARTNERS FOR INTERCESSION
In par. 281 of The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says, "One form of prayer moves us particularly to take up the task of evangelisation and to seek the good of others: it is the prayer of intercession." That being so the mission statement of the New Springtime Community's ends with these words, "We will encourage intercessors to pray on our behalf that we may be delivered from all evil and empowered to proclaim the Good News effectively."
Intercession is necessary whenever Christians are engaged in evangelisation. It is particularly appropriate in the period before a parish mission or an evangelistic outreach such as the Alpha Course. In 2 Cor 4:4 St Paul said that one reason why the attempt to evangelise those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus can be ineffective is because, "The God of this age [i.e. Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel." However, Paul goes on to say in 2 Cor 10:3-5, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with [e.g. intercessory prayer] are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds [i.e. of wrong thinking in the mind].. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Our Partners in Intercession exists to support The New Springtime Community's work of evangelisation through the ministry of prayer. By offering their prayers, joys and sufferings to God for the conversion of souls, our partners in intercession become true participants in the Church?s great mission of evangelisation.
Those who wish to serve as partners in intercession can register with the New Springtime Community (below). Then, they undertake to offer daily prayers for the work of evangelisation and to say the prayer for evangelisers (below), especially for those who are far away from Jesus Christ and his Church, and those whose minds are blinded by the influence of the evil one. [email protected]
PRAYER FOR EVANGELISERS
Father in heaven, you so loved the world that you sent your divine Son to be our redeemer. I thank you that, not only have I been baptised and confirmed into his saving death and resurrection, I also have the inner assurance that my sins, though many, are forgiven and forgotten, not through any merit of my own, but by the free gift of your Spirit.
Lord Jesus we cannot bear effective witness to you without the energising fire of your Holy Spirit, which was first cast upon the earth on Pentecost Sunday. Help us to fan into a mighty flame the gift we have already received while expressing our gratitude for that gift by means of good works, especially that of bearing witness to the Gospel.
Enlighten my mind and heart as well as those of the members of the New Springtime Community to know how and when to proclaim this Good News in word and deed, even to the point of healings and miracles, so that they may astonish and amaze the profane and secular world in which we live.
Preserve me and the members of the New Springtime community as well as those they seek to evangelise from the illusions and malign influence of the evil one.
Lord, you have said in repeated messages of a prophetic kind that a great age of evangelisation is about to be inaugurated by you, one which will usher in a new springtime for the Christianity. Help me, together with the members of the New Springtime Community to become an effective instrument of your saving purposes in the world. Amen.
The New Springtime Community is dedicated to fulfilling the great commission of Jesus and the call of the contemporary Church for a new evangelisation. The community has been led in prayer to focus on chapters two and four of the book of Nehemiah. we interpret the latter in symbolic terms.
· Firstly, the aim of rebuilding the breached walls of Jerusalem represents God?s call to contemporary Christians to restore the Church by means of evangelisationand renewal.
· Secondly, the rubble lying in front of the city walls represents those worldly attachments, desires and bad habits in the lives of believers which weaken the work of evangelisation. The more such obstacles can be removed the better.
· Thirdly, the enemy, i.e. the evil one, exploits the rubble in order to camouflage his malevolent presence and to mount unexpected attacks, by means of circumstances and people, on those who are engaged on rebuilding the walls. ?Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour? (1 Pt 5:8).
· Fourthly, Nehemiah appointed half of his volunteers to keep watch for the enemy in order to warn the builders so that the evangelists and intercessors could repel the attacks together. This represents firstly, the need for spiritual discernment. As Paul says in 1 Thess 5:20-22, ?Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.?
· Fifthly, successful spiritual warfare is made possible by means of intercession in the Spirit, the sword of the word for offence and the shield of faith for defence (cf. Eph 6: 16-17). Paul assures us in 2 Cor 10:4-6 that spiritual combat will be effective because, ?The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.?
Mindful of these truths the New Springtime Community is aware that its work will need to be backed up by a lot on intercessory prayer. As the Lord says in Ezech 22:30, "I have been looking for someone among them?to man the breach in front of me, to defend the country." We would request intercessory groups of six to eight people to commit themselves on one specified occasion each month to fast and intercede for the work of the community. How the person fasts is up to him or her, e.g., skipping one or more meals in the day, or relying on unbuttered bread and water etc. Furthermore we would hope that such groups would find the following guidelines helpful.
Ten Guidelines for Intercessory Prayer
© The New Springtime Community
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