The Collect for Proper 17: The Sunday closest to August 31

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things:
Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion;
nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 233)

Historical introduction:  This Collect dates from at least the early 8th century.[1]  Archbishop Thomas Cranmer modified the Preamble to become a paraphrase of James 1:17.[2]  Marion Hatchett speculates that Cranmer’s insertion of “true” before “religion” might be due to the controversies of his day.   Paul Marshall states that before our 1979 BCP, this Collect was appointed for The Seventh Sunday after Trinity.[3]  The present version has several revisions from the ancient source that have been retained or further modified:

  • Cranmer’s harmonization of the Preamble with James 1:17 continues,
  • Cranmer’s description of “religion” as “true” is retained,
  • an earlier English translation that shifted the Petition from what might be better translated as “nourish what is good in us”[4] to a phrase that is more in line with the Continental Reformers’ concerns, “nourish us with all goodness,” is kept,
  • in 1979, “bring forth in us the fruit of good works” is substituted for the original ending of the Petition, “and of thy great mercy keep us in the same.”[5] 

This final substitution is most likely due to the desire of the revisers of our 1979 BCP to have a theme, as Hatchett describes, that is “an extended metaphor of the farmer or gardener:  the fruit of good works is brought forth by the grace of God who plants, nourishes, and continues to care for His own.”[6]

In the Preamble, “Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things,” following James 1:17, we affirm our belief that God is the Lord of all that is powerful and mighty in creation.  “Lord,” here, is most likely referring to God as sovereign, the ruler.  God, who alone is good (Mark 10:18), is the source of all good things and the one who gives these good things (see Psalm 147 and Matthew 7:7-11).

The Petition: “Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works,” is a list of good things for which we ask, in four parts.

The Petition begins with “Graft in our hearts the love of your Name.”  “Name” here is not merely God’s revealed name or what we call God, but who God has revealed God’s self to be to us.  This use of “Name,” so close to “Lord of all power and might” in the Preamble, provides us with a glimpse into the reality that the God who is sovereign over all is the same God who, in an act of intimacy, has revealed God’s name and purposes to us.  As the first good thing we ask, we request that God, our sovereign who loves us dearly, will help us live into the first half of the two great commandments:  to love God with our whole being.

In the Collect for Proper 7, we ask “O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name.”  In this Collect, using the metaphor of horticulture, we have the same request phrased differently—some days, we may resonate more with the Petition from Proper 7, on other days, this Petition may speak to our hearts better.  In both of these Petitions, we acknowledge implicitly that we are not able to love God as we ought on our own—we need God’s grace to love God. 

“Increase in us true religion” is a request for us to grow in our thinking, believing, and trusting so that we are increasingly connected to the way of being that is truthful.  In Cranmer’s day, this phrase may have been seen as a desire to not only put away those parts of Roman Catholicism that the Reformers considered to be erroneous or superstition, but to turn to those aspects of Anglican worship and doctrine that the Reformers promoted.  In our day, Micah 6:8 and James 1:27 might serve us better as a test of what is true religion:  “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8, NSRV) and “to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27, NRSV).  These two passages are summaries of our baptismal vows (BCP 304-5)

“Nourish us with all goodness,” the third part of this Petition, is asking God to provide what we need.  Since God is our definition of good, ultimately the goodness that we long to be nourished with is God’s very self.

The final part of the Petition, “And bring forth in us the fruit of good works,” is an echo of the prayer in Colossians 1:8-14.  This last petition builds upon the other three:  by grafting the love of God’s name in our hearts, by increasing in us true religion, and by nourishing us with all goodness, we ask that our lives, by God’s grace, will produce what is pleasing to God.  Through a bountiful harvest of good works in our lives, God is glorified and our lives are a witness to God’s grace worked in us (Luke 6:44-45).

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen” is an invitation for us to receive this grace through the active work of the Trinity so that our lives are productive.

For your consideration:

Consider the description of true religion as “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” and “to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  How has God been increasing true religion in you since last year?  How has God been increasing true religion in us as a parish, as a diocese, and as a denomination?

How do you experience God’s nourishment with all good things?  Through what and whom has God been nourishing us, as a parish, since we prayed this Collect last? 

What good works is God bringing forth in you?  What good works is God bringing forth in us as a parish?  What good works might God be preparing for us to do in the future?

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things:
Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion;
nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 233)

© 2022 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick

Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide


[1] Hatchett lists that the Collect is used in the Gelasian sacramentary, the supplement to the Gregorian sacramentary, and the Sarum missal.  Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book, (New York:  Harper Collins, 1995), 191.

[2] Hatchett, 191.

[3] Paul V. Marshall, Prayer Book Parallels (New York:  Church Publishing, 1990) II.102-3.

[4] Hatchett, 191.  See the Petition in The Collect for Proper 1 (BCP 228) for a similar theme of there being good within us.  This theme of goodness wrought within us appears to be in contrast to the doctrine of total depravity that becomes codified for the Continental Reformers at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), well after this Collect was originally revised.

[5] Hatchett, 191. 

[6] Hatchett, 191.

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