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Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community

Devotionals have long been an important part of my daily spiritual practice. I find that a short, thought-provoking devotion can help me settle down and get more focused on God. I liken it to priming the pump for drawing on the living waters of Christ.

Several years ago, when I was a delegate from my church to the annual conference of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, one of the bishops read a meditation from the Celtic Daily Prayer that took my breath away with its loveliness and power. I ordered the book as soon as I got home, and it has been one I reach for regularly.

Men and women of a modern Northumbria Community today carry on a monastic, contemplative stream of the Christian faith and the never-failing need to make that faith relevant in today's world. The book contains prayers, contemplations, and liturgies drawn from the spiritual life there that transcends culture, denomination, and other divisive forces. It is steeped in the ancient wisdom of traditional Celtic Christianity—with a remarkable connection to ways God reveals himself in the natural world around us. Yet, for all its ancient wisdom, it is highly contemporary…timeless, really.

Celtic Daily Prayer is designed to support the faithful in daily worship (there is a Daily Office), times of need, times of celebration, and more. It contains daily scripture readings and contemplative excerpts from many sources for two complete years. It includes a calendar of saints' days and festivals. There is a beautiful section on rites of passage we all encounter in life: birth, rebirth, marriage, midlife, and bereavement. There are lovely blessings and graces that can be used for many occasions. 

One of my favorite prayers in the book is called the Caim or encircling prayer and is used when you don't know how to pray and can be adapted for all kinds of situations. The reader is instructed to draw (or imagine she is drawing) a circle clockwise around herself, using the right index finger as she says the prayer to symbolize the encircling love of God. Italicized words may be changed as needed, and many examples are given in the book.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep (comfort) near
and (discouragement) afar.
Keep (peace) within
and (turmoil) out.


Circle me (or us), Lord.
Keep hope within,
keep despair out.

Circle John, Lord.
Keep peace within
and anxiety without.

There are excerpts from many other traditional and contemporary sources, some known and some unfamiliar. Some of my favorites came from a book by Alistair Maclean called Hebridean Altars: The Spirit of an Island Race. This next book review tells you more about this little gem.

Hebridean Altars: The Spirit of an Island Race

by Alistair Maclean

First published in 1937, this book contains exquisite language about—and from—the beautiful, spiritual people of the Hebrides, a widespread and diverse group of islands off the coast of Scotland. The author—a Church of Scotland minister and Gaelic scholar—collected stories, prayers, and myths handed down from one generation to another, each steeped in the faith of these people and their work ethic (mostly as fishermen) and imbued with connection to the natural world of their Creator, especially the sea surrounding their island.

Their simple, profound faith–and the lovely they way express it–are both soothing and inspiring. Here are two simple prayers I found deeply moving:

Jesus, Lord of the calm and of the storm, whatever seas I sail upon, be Thou my helm, my compass, and my port.

Giver of increasing good, take my thanks for all that has made me what I am; for all my yesterdays; their discipline; their pleasant songs; my unanswered prayers, nay even for those whelming hours in which I have seen how frail I am without Thee. And, when tomorrow comes with a new duty or with a new truth, may the door of my mind be open, and I at the door to bid them welcome.


Are there books other than Scripture or the foundational book of your faith (e.g., Torah, Koran) that have inspired you or helped you build your faith? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

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