O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect is found in a number of early missals including the Celtic Stowe Missal of the 8thcentury that was written in Latin and Old Irish. It also appeared in the Sarum Missaland was slightly modified by Archbishop Cranmer for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.
The collect is drawn from the wonderful biblical promise “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”I heard a country preacher say, “I believe that we are going to find that God is a whole lot greater and a whole lot gooder than we could have imagined.” The Scriptures and this collect say that he is correct.
We would be right to be utterly amazed that God has “prepared…such good things as surpass our understanding.” Considering that we have done absolutely nothing to be forgiven, we would be more than grateful for His mercy. But God has gone far beyond declaring us forgiven. He offers us promises “which exceed all that we can desire,” among which is making us joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
The petition of this collect is that we would obtain God’s promises by loving Him “in all things and above all things.” While that certainly is “meet and right so to do,” the truth is that in our own power we are not able to love God with all of our heart and soul and strength.And so the petition correctly starts by asking the LORD to first “pour into our hearts such love towards you.” It is God’s love in us that makes it possible for us to love Him in return. St. Augustine wisely prayed, “And my whole hope is only in Thy exceeding great mercy. Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.”
What does it look like for us to love God “in all things and above all things?” Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount. It is to make God the priority of our lives. Jesus said, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.Seek the Kingdom of Godabove all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
11thCentury Rite of Salisbury Cathedral
I Corinthians 2:9 NASB
Matthew 6:31-33 NLT