From Be Thou My Breastplate
Let the speech of the people of Heaven be in this mouth. (Fursa’s Breastplate)
John the Beloved in his island reclusion on Patmos was treated to a sequence of heavenly visions, which he recorded as the book of Revelation. In these reports we hear the speech of martyrs and confessors, elders, and angels, along with the voice of the ascended son of God. The heavenly speech that John reports is prophetic: it calls us to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
The heavenly speech the apostle describes is full of encouragement too, reassuring the believer that “those who endure will not be hurt by the second death.” This heavenly speech is also pastoral, calling the believing soul back to its first love for Christ.
Heaven’s words are also words of praise, declaring, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty and worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and strength, honor, glory, and praise.” Other heavenly voices call out for God’s justice finally to come and hold sway on Earth. Heaven’s voices join in singing the song of God’s great purpose in Christ: “To purchase for God people from every tribe and language, nation, and race, to become a kingdom of priests to serve our God.”
It is to such speech that Fursa now dedicates his mouth. He prays that, while on Earth, he might become a speaker of such prophecy, a giver of such encouragement, an advocate for such justice and a declarer of such praise. In short, his prayer is that he too might boldly declare God’s great purpose in Christ.
Clearly, if God is to answer his prayer, Fursa cannot live the life of a silent anchorite, speechlessly observing the lives of others from the safe haven of his hermitage. No, when his brothers’ courage weakens Fursa must go and use his heavenly speech to sustain them. When injustice needs correcting. Fursa must be ready to speak up. When worshiping hearts are growing cold, Fursa must recall them to their first love and so be the voice of the Spirit to the churches.
Morning by morning, Fursa will make God’s purposes in Christ his song, his speech, and his motivation. Only such a response will accord with this humble line of prayer. If Fursa allows himself to live in agreement with his prayer, then any stranger who encounters him will quickly gauge what kind of man they have met, knowing that it is “out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.” That is why, if I pray this prayer with Fursa today, it is really my heart I am offering to God as I make this request of him: “Let the speech of the people of Heaven be in this mouth.”