An Introduction To Patrick Of Ireland - Praying with Saint Patrick

An Introduction to Patrick of Ireland

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” (Mark 16:15, NIV)

When you think of Saint Patrick, what comes to mind? A stone statue? A three-leaf clover? Parades with leprechauns and rainbows?

Patrick lived in the transition time between the decline of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages. Much of this era’s history has been lost forever, making what we do know about Patrick quite remarkable. The Book of Armagh, on display at Trinity College in Dublin, contains copies of two letters that historians agree were written by Patrick himself. These fascinating letters and other sources reveal the outline of Patrick’s story. Patrick was born not in Ireland, but in western Britain around AD 390. His father taught him the Christian faith, which Patrick rejected. In a great raid, Irish barbarians swept down on his coastal village and carted sixteen-year-old Patrick across the Irish Sea to slavery. While tending sheep in Ireland, he turned to God, and after six years he escaped back to Britain. But before long, God used a dream to call Patrick to return to the people who had enslaved him to share the love and forgiveness of Christ.

In Patrick’s writings we meet a surprisingly relatable human, a person with struggles, disappointments, passions, and dreams—a far cry from both the stained-glass-window saint and the hard-drinking leprechaun cartoon.

Patrick was illuminated with a passion for God, God’s Word, and God’s people. He was a man of prayer, and while his letters don’t include some of the more legendary events, such as driving snakes out of Ireland, they do show God moving and working miraculously in an inspirational story of God’s real power. He was steeped in Scripture—his letters overflow with Scriptural references and allusions. Patrick’s life was characterized by risk-taking in the service of others—particularly women, slaves, and the poor.

In his letter, Patrick prays that his life’s work would be an inspiration for future generations. This prayer was answered with a resounding yes, as the hundreds of churches that Patrick planted continued to expand. Historians have labeled the three centuries following Patrick “Ireland’s Golden Age.” The slave trade that had victimized young Patrick, as well as pagan human sacrifice, largely came to an end. Literature, art, research, and learning flourished across the island. Missionaries inspired by Patrick sailed beyond the shores of Ireland to share Christ’s love with the continent of Europe, which had been devastated by barbarian raids and war.

Patrick closes his letters with a prayer that anyone who hears of the amazing works that were accomplished in Ireland would not think of him but would exalt his God.

We pray that Patrick’s writings and his story inspire you to think, pray, and change the world like he did.

Prayer: God, there are so many unexpected moments in our lives. Help me, like Patrick, to trust you in the midst of those and seek the ways that I might use my current situation to tell others about the beauty of being in relationship with you!

From the Book:

Praying with Saint Patrick cover image

Praying with Saint Patrick
By Aaron Burns & Matt Mikalatos


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