Saturday, October 18, 2008

Collect of the week--In the morning

I'm sure I've said it before, but the section at the back of the 1928 Prayer Book called "Family Prayer" is unjustly neglected. I would love to see some of the collects from it incorporated into Anglican worship services. The collects have a different feel from those by Cranmer and those translated from the Latin. I have read that this section was published free-standing before it was incorporated into the American 1928 BCP and that its prayers have been attributed to the late 17th century divine Archbishop Tillotson.

The particular one I have in mind here is designated to be prayed in the morning, though it makes just as much sense to pray it at night or at any other time.

Almighty God, who alone gavest us the breath of life, and alone canst keep alive in us the holy desires thou dost impart; We beseech thee, for thy compassion's sake, to sanctify all our thoughts and endeavours; that we may neither begin an action without a pure intention nor continue it without thy blessing. And grant that, having the eyes of the mind opened to behold things invisible and unseen, we may in heart be inspired by thy wisdom, and in work be upheld by thy strength, and in the end be accepted of thee as thy faithful servants; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
This collect has that quality that all good collects have: It says it for you. I have not the slightest bit of trouble praying this collect as a real prayer. It never tempts me to regard it as an empty form of words, because it says so well and so exactly what I truly wish to ask of God.

How many times to I begin an action without a pure intention? Lots. But even if I do begin it with a pure intention, sometimes I continue it when I should backtrack or rethink. I certainly would like the Holy Spirit to nudge me at those times. And then, it's very easy to be weary in well-doing, so when I'm doing what I ought to be doing, what I most need is to be inspired by God's wisdom and upheld by His strength, most particularly by "beholding things invisible and unseen"--being reminded what it's all about.

Great collects, by the way, always pack in biblical allusions. This one is alluding to Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 1, "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe..."

And all of that--the opening of the understanding, the strength of God, the intention of the act, and the continual guidance of God in continuing the action--is the path to follow in order to hear that "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

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