Thursday, 18 April 2013

A 17th Century prayer for today

                                                     "March on boys!"

Sir Jacob, later Lord Astley, a Royalist fighting for King and country at the battle of Edgehill, in England's first civil war in 1642, uttered the following words as he led his men into battle:-

"O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day,
If I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me"

From a small amount of research I can find nothing to indicate that this leader of men was Catholic; in fact, the likelihood is that he was Protestant.

Yet, this is a great prayer; a sound prayer for each of us today whether we risk death by a terrorist bomb, a London bus or a final clogging up of the arteries.

We live in a world where the treadmill pace increases daily and where the hubbub of humanity drowns out the opportunity, for many, to speak at length to Our Lord.

This is a prayer that you can say as you board your train or take your seat at the office team meeting.

In particular, I like the final line that is often not included in what has become known as 'Astley's Prayer' - "March on boys!"

A brief history of Lord Astley may be found HERE


  1. I have known this prayer but somewhere in the past forgot to remember. I too thinks it's wonderful. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I have an interest in what could loosely be called 'the history of prayer'. The prayer you have highlighted is a good one. It is succinct, to the point and 'does exactly what it says on the tin'.

    This is interesting because if you look at the prayers of those from protestant, non-conformist and free churches they often say prayers which are direct, to the point, ask for everything in fullness i.e. they do not miss anything out. Beyond this the ones who are more theologically astute are trained up to expect answer to prayer.

    Now all of this is interesting because, I am convinced that these are in fact not protestant traits at all, but were originally Catholic traits which have somehow been passed down to them (but we have lost them).

    Some Catholic prayers are often banal almost to the point whereby the person who wrote them did not have any concept of theology.

    The Prayer to St Michael is a good prayer because it asks in 'fullness'.

    The point of a theologically sound prayer is that it must be specific so that when it is answered you are in no doubt that it was God who answered it. This is partly because God does not want us to be doubled crossed by Satan i.e. let's give the thanks to God and not give thanks to some random act that made answer to your prayer possible.

    The long and the short of it is that I am convinced that the Catholic Church is not becoming stronger because many Catholics no longer know how to pray, but what is worse is that many no longer expect answer to prayer.

    I don't know what you think about this, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

  3. Good prayer! Yes!

    But hardly our first civil war. We had the Wars of the Roses and, before that, The Anarchy- at the time of Matilda and Stephen.

  4. Patricius - correct, of course.

    OPN - you are so right. I have a particular aversion to novena prayers that appear as if they have been through several stages of translation from a number of obscure languages.

    Anon, thank you.

  5. Worst of all are the awful politically-correct bidding prayers composed by some parish committee of superannuated liberals. They go after this fashion: "We pray (blah blah blah) disadvantaged (rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb) marginalized (yak yak yak)justice and peace. Lord hear us." General response: "Lord graciously hear us". My response (clara voce): "Lord, who writes this crap?" Followed by a mental note to drive the thirty miles to the nearest EF Mass on the following Sunday.

  6. I agree with all these interesting comments.