Gleanings from the Collects: Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A version of this collect can be found in the Leonine[1]and Gelasian[2]sacramentaries. The 1549 version reads, “Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; grant, we beseech thee, that we may so run to thy heavenly promises, that we fail not finally to attain the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The collect has a strong beginning. It is because God is both almighty and merciful that we are benefactors of His grace. He owes us nothing and yet He has given us everything, especially through His Son. It is also true that our works not only begin but also continue by His grace. The prophet Isaiah reminds us of the reality of our good works apart from God. “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.”[3]But works done by God’s grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit become “true and laudable service.”

The collect echoes the biblical analogy of the Christian life being a race. The writer of Hebrews enjoins us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.”[4]St. Paul  wrote to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”[5]

This prayer goes on to tell us the nature of the prize for which we run. We run “to obtain your heavenly promises.” Such promises stand in stark contrast to earthly promises such as fame or riches or power. The former are eternal in nature while the latter are fleeting at best and at times more of a curse than a blessing. Thus Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[6]

The revision of the collect, that changed the final phrasing of the 1549 version, is unfortunate. While it certainly should be our goal to “run without stumbling” (2019), experience would tell us that is a futile hope. Only Jesus has accomplished that goal. 

However it is certainly valid to hope to run in such a way that “we fail not finally to attain the same” (1549). While we may not run perfectly, we can ask for grace to help us finish the race. In the meantime, if we stumble or fall? Scripture tells us, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”[7]

[1]7thcentury book of liturgy

[2]8thcentury book of liturgy

[3]Isaiah 64:6

[4]Hebrew 12:1 ESV

[5]I Corinthians 9:24 NASB

[6]Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

[7]Hebrew 4:16 ESV

Gleanings from the Collects: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The seeds of this collect are found in the Leonine sacramentary[1]with revisions appearing in the Gallican[2]and Sarum[3]Missals. It was translated into English in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. It was Proper 22 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and is appointed for the 9thSunday after Pentecost in the 2019 BCP.

The collect begins by ascribing to God the attributes of omnipotence and eternity. These are excellent qualities to remember when seeking the LORD because they remind us “with God nothing is impossible.”[4]

Immediately after mentioning God’s attributes that fill us with awe, the collect points us to His Fatherly heart. He is “more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire of deserve.” It fills us with hope and points us to Jesus’ statement, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?[5]

The petition is for God’s mercy to come to us in abundance. His mercy has a two-fold purpose. It erases our sin by “forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid” and it brings about blessings by “giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask.” God’s goodness and mercy truly do follow us all the days of our life. [6]

The sense of our unworthiness, combined with the understanding of God as “almighty and everlasting,” could result in our shrinking back from this or any petition. But we are reminded here that we do not come before the throne of grace in our own merit. Jesus Christ appeared before God as both Priest and Sacrifice.[7]He not only offered atonement for our sins but even now He lives to make intercession for us[8]. We are not worthy but He is and that is why we are able to make this bold petition before our Lord.

[1]7thcentury book of liturgy for the celebrant

[2]7thcentury Missal

[3]11thcentury Missal

[4]Luke 1:37 NKJV

[5]Matthew 7:11 NKJV

[6]Psalm 23

[7]Hebrews 10

[8]Hebrews 7:25

Gleanings from the Collects: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect can be traced to a 7thcentury Missal.[1]It was revised by Archbishop Cranmer for the first English Book of Common Prayer. It was appointed as the collect for Proper 21 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 8thSunday after Pentecost in the 2019 BCP.

It begins with an astonishing statement. When we think of the almighty power of God our minds go to the creation of all things, the LORD spinning galaxies from His fingertips. We wonder at His power to sustain everything that has life, from microscopic creatures, to all of human kind, to angelic beings. We marvel at His power to bring all things to their appointed ends. When we think of His almighty power we tend to quake. And yet this collect corrects our thinking. It tells us that the almighty power of God is chiefly declared, “in showing mercy and pity.” He uses His power not like the great and terrible Oz, but as a loving heavenly Father to help and to heal. John 3:16 tells us that this collect is exactly right. Thus when we think of a power that matches His love, it causes us to seek refuge in Him. Where else would we find both mercy and pity?

The petition is to receive grace to “…become partakers of your heavenly treasure.” We need this grace because heavenly treasures are not attained by our good works. St. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[2]

However the collect wisely points out that we are not passive recipients of God’s grace. It gives us the image of “running to obtain your promises.” This imagery reflects the words of Hebrews“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”[3]

The Christian life is not a sprint, rather it is a marathon. It is a race, that apart from the grace of God, we would be unable to complete. But with the help of God we will not only finish the race but we will also receive “a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”[4]

[1]Gallican Missale Gothicum – “holy missal Batman!”

[2]Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV

[3]Hebrews 12:1 NLT

[4]I Peter 5:4 KJV

Gleanings from the Collects: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and, that we may receive what we ask, teach us by your Holy Spirit to ask only those things that are pleasing to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the same Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

While this collect is absent from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer it can be found in the 2019, 1928 and 1662 BCP. It was made a beautiful choral piece by Thomas Mudd[1](1619-1667). Its roots can be found in the Leo Sacramentary[2]and the Sarum Use[3].

There is immediacy about this collect, as it does not begin by ascribing an attribute to God, such as, “Lord of all power and might…”[4]It is a direct appeal to His mercy (merciful ears) to hear our prayers. In this context, however, the call for mercy is not the appeal of a felon about to be judged, it is the heartfelt request of a child asking to be shown the Father’s steadfast love. 

The collect takes us to the writing of St. James who tells us, “You ask and you do not receive because you ask amiss…”[5]Thus we pray to be taught by the Holy Spirit to pray “only those things that are pleasing to you.”

Three lessons are taught in this prayer. First we are to approach the Lord as “your humble servants.” This was modeled for us on the night before He died, when Jesus approached the Father in humility praying, “Nevertheless not my will but yours be done.”[6]This is in harsh contrast to the televangelist approach of “name it and claim it” or of those who say that we can demand God to answer our prayers. In one such article the author says, “It’s your prayers that allow Him to pour out His Spirit and sweep the earth with the revelation of His glory”[7]If you truly believe that you “allow God” to do anything, then it is time to humble yourself in prayer and fasting. He is the Potter and we are the clay.[8]

A second lesson is that we need to be taught to pray. That is what the disciples asked of Jesus.[9]For His followers today, the best teacher is the Holy Spirit. It helps to read books on prayer but the best way to learn to pray is by praying. The Holy Spirit will help us in our weakness[10]. We won’t always do it correctly and we will no doubt occasionally pray amiss. But we are not trying to pass an exam. Rather we are speaking with the One who loves us more than we can ever dream. A father delights in the first coos of his infant. He celebrates the toddler’s first words. He is thrilled when the child begins to form sentences. And he treasures every conversation that he has with his grown kids. To paraphrase Jesus, if we who are evil do this, then imagine how our heavenly Father must delight in even our feeblest attempts at prayer. 

The third lesson is that prayer is not the spiritual equivalent of presenting a shopping list. We seek to be mature in our prayers by praying according to His will. Jesus taught this. It is not an accident that we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” before we pray “give us this day our daily bread.” That is why the Book of Common Prayer is such a treasure. These prayers, which have been prayed over the centuries, call us to heights in prayer that go far beyond our natural inclinations. Beyond simply asking the Lord to bless our families, the BCP has us pray, “…bring the nations into thy fold, pour out thy Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of they kingdom…”[11]Such prayers teach us to pray “only those things that are pleasing” to Him.


[2]483 AD

[3]1083 AD

[4]Collect for Proper 17, 1979 BCP

[5]James 4:3 NKJV

[6]Luke 22:42 ESV

[7]No internet source provided to avoid promoting heresy

[8]Isaiah 64:8

[9]Luke 11:1

[10]Romans 8:26,27

[11]1979 BCP p.58

Gleanings from the Collects: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Grant us, O Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who can do no good thing apart from you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The gist of this collect can be found in the Leonine Sacramentary[1]. It appeared as the collect for Proper 14 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and has been transferred to the 6thSunday after Pentecost in the 2019 BCP.

This brief collect encapsulates a central doctrine of the Christian faith. It highlights the role of grace in the life of the believer. 

It crushes our human pride to admit, as the collect says, that we “can do no good thing apart from you,” But that is a reality of life as taught by Holy Scripture. Without God we are “dead in our transgressions and sins.”[2]Even with God we are utterly dependent. Jesus said, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”[3]Thus we entreat God to grant us the spirit to think and do what is right, as well as the power to fulfill it.

Admitting our utter dependence upon the LORD, to even think what is right, does not absolve us of personal responsibility. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are not mutually exclusive ideas. They are intertwined truths that give us the hope that we will be able to complete the race because He is with us all the way. 

After a beautifully poetic call to put on Christ’s humility[4]St. Paul writes, “work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”[5]That certainly is a call for human responsibility, but if that it was all that he said then we would be left in fear and trembling. St. Paul continues, “for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”[6]God gives us the will and the power to do what is right and that is how we go about working out our salvation. We are at the same time humbled by our dependence upon Him and confident that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”[7]

One of the most obvious ways that the LORD answers our prayers for grace is through Word and Sacrament. It is through the proclamation of God’s Word that we are led to salvation.[8]It is through baptism that we are cleansed from sin.[9]It is through Holy Communion that we are united with Christ.[10]In short, God’s grace is primarily mediated through the Church and that is why we need one another. The Holy Spirit unites us to one another and to Christ in such a way that we are Christ’s Body. Thus when Saul was arresting Christians Jesus asked Him, “Why are you persecuting Me?”[11]Because we are His Body it is most appropriate for us to pray to “think and do always those thing that are right” and to be able “to live according to your will.” 

[1]7thcentury liturgical book of prayers to be prayed by the priest

[2]Ephesians 2:1 NIV

[3]John 15:4 NASB

[4]Philippians 2:1-11

[5]Philippians 2:12 NASB

[6]Philippians 2:13

[7]Philippians 1:6 NASB

[8]Romans 10:8-10

[9]Acts 22:16

[10]John 6:56

[11]Acts 9:4