Collect Yourself

People who worship in liturgical churches are familiar with a type of prayer called a “collect” (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable). A collect is a brief summary prayer. They’re used in many liturgical services. The book of common prayer contains collects for the various services of the year. Often we non-liturgical types struggle to pray with depth and purpose when we pray extemporaneously. In his book “A Generous Orthodoxy” Brian MacLaren skewers the shallow prayers of many of us. “And we just ask that you just bless us and just be here with us and we just want to just thank you for just being such a good God who just loves us and we just…” One thing that has helped me pray with more purpose is to use the structure of the collect in my prayers when leading worship.  Here is a collect from the Book of Common Prayer which we’ll use as our example:

“O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The collect has five parts:

  1. The Address – This is simply where we address God.  In our example the address is simply “O God”
  2. An Attribute or Description – here we say something about God.  From our example: “whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread”
  3. A Request – This is what we are asking from God.  “Open the eyes of our faith”
  4. The result – the expected outcome of the request or why we’re asking “that we may behold him in all his redeeming work”
  5. Closing doxology – this can be as simple as “In Jesus name, amen” or like our example: “who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

Once you are familiar with the structure it isn’t difficult to compose your own collect “on the fly”.  It may not be as eloquent and erudite as the collects in the Book of Common Prayer, but it will give depth and purpose to your prayer. I use this form in my own personal times of prayer and I’ve begun to use this form in leading worship.  It helps when using this form in leading worship to give some thought beforehand to the five parts of prayer rather than trying to come up with them totally on the fly.  It will take some work, but the rewards are worth it.  Often we musician-worship leaders are more than willing to work on our musical chops.  We also need to work on our praying chops.

And now, a closing prayer:

“Almighty God, who gives wisdom to all who ask for it: Help us to pray to you with fervency and clarity, so that we may see your goodness and mercy as you answer us.  We ask it in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.”

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