Hundreds (thousands?) of people from my denomination are gathering this week to work through some issues of major significance to our churches. So of course I’m praying for this important meeting. I pray my own prayers, but I am also praying a centuries-old prayer—called a “collect”—from the Book of Common Prayer. Here it is:
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, even as thou and he are one: Grant that thy Church, being bound together in love and obedience to thee, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom thou didst send, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever, Amen.
Yes, the language is formal. But I love how this prayer expresses the longings of Jesus and the truth of Scripture. It helps me to pray with faith and a heart connected with God’s. I need that!
So . . . recently I was challenged to write my own collects (pronounced CALL-lect). It turned out to be easier than it first seemed—and yet for me, anyhow, it has become a fresh and very rich way to pray Scripture.
Here’s the basic outline:
1. Start by addressing God according to one of His names or attributes
2. Say something about who He is according to that name or attribute
3. Ask Him to do or be something according to a specific need you present to Him
4. Describe what the result of Him answering this request will be
5. Close your prayer
(For a more in-depth discussion of this prayer form, check out an article by Shea Tuttle: http://www.examiner.com/protestant-in-richmond/liturgical-writing-101-the-collect-prayer-form)
So if we broke down the prayer I am praying for my denomination into these parts, it would look like this:
1. Almighty God (addressing God)
2. Whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, even as thou and he are one (describes something about Him)
3. Grant that thy Church, being bound together in love and obedience to thee, may be united in one body by the one Spirit (what you are asking Him to do)
4. that the world may believe in him whom thou didst send, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee (anticipated result)
5. In the unity of the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever, Amen. (closing)
Granted, that formal example may be a bit tough to follow. So let me give you one of my simpler, personal examples. Recently, my daily Scripture text came from John 4:1-29, the account of the woman at the well. Here is my collect that came out of that reading:
Jesus, Living Water,
As You understood and met the Samaritan woman’s deepest longings,
Help me to trust that You lovingly anticipate and will meet mine
So that I will not fill up on lesser things, but only on Your life-giving water
In the steadfast love of Your name, Amen.
What came out of that exercise was not just a prayer I could pray in the moment, but a prayer I wanted to pray all day, and I expect will come back to me often in the future, when I feel thirsty for God.
Some of you, no doubt, are very familiar with the prayer tradition of collects. Others are probably novices like me. I’d love to hear from you—your experiences with this form of prayer, or your experiments in writing and praying your own.