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“Defend, O Lord, this thy child”

2009 August 11
by Gordon Reid

Bp Slattery ConfirmingOne of the greatest errors of modern Confirmation rites has been to take away the prayer “Defend, O Lord, this thy child” from every single person being confirmed. The bland “Mary, I confirm you” is a travesty of the Sacrament. It is meant to be the invocation of the Holy Ghost on the person kneeling in front of the Bishop, conveyed through the laying on of his hands, in conformity with the example of the Apostles. And it is not as though Anglican Bishops, on the whole, had vast numbers to cope with; certainly no more than they had in earlier missionary dioceses, where the old rite was used over every candidate.

The Confirmation Prayer is one that I use all the time in intercession for everyone, living and departed. If you see me walking the streets of Philadelphia muttering to myself, it does not (yet) mean I have succumbed to senility. If it’s late at night, I am probably reciting Compline (the version in the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book), but at any other time of the day I am probably using the Confirmaton prayer for all the people I want to pray for that day. I recommend it to you. What could be better or more inclusive for the living or departed than this lovely prayer:

“Defend, O Lord, N, thy child, with thy heavenly grace, that he may continue thine for ever, and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit more and more, until he come unto thy everlasting Kingdom. Amen.”

If you have a dozen or two people you want to pray for, but are not sure what you want to ask God to do for them, just hold them in your love while you pray this prayer for them, and then trust in God to bless them and keep them safe.

If any of you who read this blog are Bishops (which I doubt!), then please swim against the absurd liturgical tide and insist on saying this prayer over and over again as you lay hands on every person being confirmed.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. August 11, 2009

    Here in Canada, the Book of Alternative Services prescribes a modern language form of this prayer (with “servant” in place of “child”), but unfortunately the use of chrism is optional.

  2. Jeff permalink
    August 11, 2009

    You mentioned in your post that Confirmation is a sacrament. Does confirmation “complete” baptism? Or is confirmation a reaffirmation of one’s baptism? At what age does St. Clement’s commune the baptized? When does one join the church: at baptism or at confirmation? Thanks for this blog, I enjoy reading it.

  3. August 11, 2009

    I use the word Sacrament, since it is one of the seven sacraments of the Western Church. The Church of England distinguishes between the two Dominical Sacraments, Baptism and the Eucharist, and other sacramental moments such as Marriage and Ordination. In this, it is more like the Eastern Churches who do not limit the number of sacramentals to seven but include many more Christian rites as sacramental.

    Baptism is the rite which conveys full membership in the Body of Christ, the Church. In adults, it should never be administered alone, however, but (as in the Early church) should be aaccompanied by Confirmation and Firt Communion. The practice of infant baptism has (except in the Eastern Churches) caused the rite to be broken up.

  4. David O'Rourke permalink
    August 13, 2009

    The prayer “Defend O Lord…” really is a fine prayer for use when praying for someone but frankly I can’t think of another sacrament where the form of the sacrament would make sense in another context. In other words, this form is somewhat vague to say the least and I suspect this is why the new rites have a different form.

    In our parish, the last time we had confirmation “Defend O Lord” AND “I sign thee with the sign of the cross etc.” from the pre-Vatican II Roman Pontifical were both used for each candidate.

    • August 18, 2009

      We still use the old BCP, so “Defend, O Lord…” is still the norm here. I was confirmed twenty odd years ago using the bland modern C of E rite. I vowed then that if I ever became a clergyman it would not be used in “my” parish. On that score I have to say “so far; so good!”

  5. J.P. White permalink
    August 25, 2009

    I was confirmed from the 1979 BCP which has two options:

    Strengthen, O Lord, your servant (N.) with your Holy Spirit; empower him for your service; and sustain him all the days of his life. Amen.


    Defend, O Lord, your servant (N.) with your heavenyl grace, that he may continue yours for ever and, daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more, until he compes to your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

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