May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
People think of this traditional Irish blessing as an ancient Celtic prayer.
And so it seems.
But it is really more of a blessing or a benediction than it is a prayer.
It reflects a warm and beautiful sentiment of one person expressing thoughts of goodwill and blessing upon another.
Christianity has a long and beautiful history in Ireland. The most famous Irish Christian is –of course- Saint Patrick.
Christianity brought many blessings to Ireland and every other place it went. And the Celtic people are known as the origin of some very beautiful blessings as well.
What is the Origin of the Irish Prayer May the Road?
This Irish blessing has its ancient roots in Biblical blessings. Another word for blessing is benediction, which means beneficial speaking.
The Holy Bible has quite a number of benedictions. Here’s a Biblical benediction that will be familiar to many readers:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Can you see the relationship between the ancient Biblical blessing from the book of Numbers and this Irish blessing? It’s very evident if they are compared side-by-side.
The Irish blessing also may draw from some uniquely Gaelic origins, but there isn’t a whole lot of information on it. It expresses a kind and sweet sentiment similar to the 3500-year-old Biblical blessing, but in slightly different terms.
This Irish blessing is regarded by many commentators as an ancient blessing, but nobody seems to know just how ancient it is –except to say that it goes way back.
And the Celtic people of those days –as with the people of ancient Israel- were very close to the land. They would have used terms of endearment familiar to their everyday activities.
Christianity started to become an influence in Ireland since the time of Saint Patrick, and he died late in the 5th century (the late 400’s). This is further evidence that this Irish prayer has Christian roots since Ireland has now been a Christian country for some 1400+ years.
This blessing is likely based on one of the blessings of Saint Patrick himself. St. Patrick was amazingly influential for Ireland and his personal story of faith is very compelling.
He was said to have had a breastplate of blessings, so there are many more blessings derived from Saint Patrick in the Irish language.
This “breastplate of Saint Patrick” is an Irish literary work based on the “breastplate of righteousness” from Ephesians 6:14 where St. Paul exhorts the Believer to “put on the whole armor of God.”
There is some scholarly debate about the breastplate of Saint Patrick.
It’s possible it was the work of a later author who ascribed it to St. Patrick. This is evidence of how highly Saint Patrick is regarded.
Let’s look at the meaning and symbology of a few lines of this Irish blessing to get more understanding.
What is the Meaning of May the Road Rise to Meet You?
This is a way of saying “may you succeed at everything you put your hand to.” It’s an echo of the Biblical promise that if we love the Lord our God first and love our neighbor as ourselves we will experience many blessings.
And it follows that if we do so, the road will rise up to meet us and our steps will be ordered of God. And as the Bible promises, “the steps of a righteous man are ordered of God.”
Imagine if there was no road at all. That would make the going quite tough. Or there could be a road that isn’t very good and doesn’t take you where you intend to go.
But when the road rises to meet you, it is always a safe and pleasant road that takes you where you need to go.
What is the Meaning of May the Wind be Always at Your Back?
Imagine having a tailwind that propels you along with ease. Sailors and airmen are familiar with the practical value of having the wind at your back.
What if everything you did had a tailwind and you achieved your objective faster than you thought you could? There are Biblical parallels.
The Psalms are full of blessings. Dozens and dozens of them.
Also, the Holy Spirit is likened to a wind. He came as a mighty wind at Pentecost in the New Testament.
Before that, the Spirit also was present in the Old Testament as the Spirit of God that brooded over the waters (Genesis 1) and as a mighty rushing wind (someplace else).
What is the Meaning of May the Rain Fall Softly on Your Fields?
City folks probably don’t think about this that much, but anybody living on a farm knows there’s an ideal amount of rain to get. And it’s best if it comes a little at a time so the plants always have adequate moisture.
A major storm can bring too much rain at once and damage the crops, and a drought will damage with too little water.
So the perfect amount of rain spaced perfectly is best for the crops.
But guess what else?
It’s also nice for us to get regular encouragement and regular spiritual growth. And to get exposure to God’s word regularly by reading the Bible.
If you are trying to decide which Bible Translation is the best, click here to see my post on it. But be sure to avoid these translations that are the worst of the worst.
And if you want to begin some deeper studies, here’s my post on how to choose the best study Bible.
And may the rain of God’s Holy Spirit fall gently on your studies as you move into a deeper relationship with Him.
What is the Meaning of May God Hold You in the Palm of His Hand?
A deep level of trust leads to a feeling of safety.
A wild bird is unlikely to fly up and land in the palm of your hand, but your domestic bird that you have fed every day for years and has lived in a cage under your roof will happily perch on your finger or your shoulder.
And so it is with the believer.
The more we come in out of the wild and feed on God’s Word and attend a church where the Gospel is preached, the more we find safety in the palm of our Creator’s hand.
He loves us and keeps us, and if we let him, he will hold us in the palm of his hand where we find comfort and safety.
May the Road Rise to Meet You –Complete Text
This Irish Blessing is typically known only by the first stanza. Did you know it has three more stanzas that are just as beautiful and profound as the first?
Here’s the entire Irish Blessing with all four stanzas:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.
How do You Say May the Road Rise with You in Irish?
Here’s the first stanza:
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d’aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.
And here’s a lovely video of the Irish Blessing in Irish along with the English translation:
The “May the Road Rise” Irish Blessing is easily the most famous Irish Blessing. But it’s not the only one.
Did you know there are many more Irish Blessings? Many are ascribed to Saint Patrick and they honor the Bible, but their origin isn’t certain.
Here are a few:
-Irish Wedding Blessing
-Saint Patrick’s Blessing
-Good Luck Blessings
-Blessings for Children
-Long Life Blessings
Every one of these Irish Blessings is amazingly beautiful! Put them all together and you’ve got something truly special.
May the Lord Bless You and Keep You.