Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Collect Prayer

When called upon to pray ad lib, especially without warning, it is sometimes difficult to keep from wandering far afield with a rambling prayer.

Not that it makes much difference to God, who knows our needs before we can cobble together words to express them. But it does make a difference to those who are praying with us. It helps to have a reasonable, understandable prayer that everyone can claim.

The first rule of leading prayer is, of course, to pray the prayer for yourself. Let it be real, authentic.

But there is a kind of prayer, a particular structure, which is easily learned, remembered and used. It’s called the “collect.” (Pronounce it coll-ect.)

Nobody seems to know where the term originated, but it appears to have something to do with the collecting of various petitions into one short prayer by the worship leader.

The pattern followed by collects is simple and straightforward:
1) Address to God—naming the One to whom we pray;
2) divine attributes—what we know about God pertinent to our request;
3) the petition—the heart of the prayer claiming the promises of God;
4) the result desired—how God’s granting the petition will translate into the lives of the people; and
5) a doxology—praise for Christ as the mediator of prayers to God.

I find this form helpful when I get volunteered to say the blessing at a meal. It might go something like this:
1) Gracious God,
2) you bring forth food for all to eat,
3) strengthen our bodies with this food and our souls with your spirit,
4) that we may always be your faithful people,
5) in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

The collect is also used in more formal settings like Sunday worship. The classic Prayer of the Day (Book of Common Worship, p. 50) follows this pattern:
1) Almighty God,
2) to whom all hearts are open,
all desires, known,
and from whom no secrets are hid:
3) Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
4) that we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name;
5) through Christ our Lord.

The collect pattern can be a helpful guide in many prayers. In what other ways might you make use of it?

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