The Collect for Proper 19: The Sunday closest to September 14

O God, because without you we are not able to please you,
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 233)

According to Marion Hatchett, this Collect was used at the beginning of a majority of the Sunday Eucharists during the season after Pentecost as early as the 8th century.  The Sarum Missal and the earlier Prayer Books used this Collect for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday (which is the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost in our current reckoning of time).  In the 1662 English BCP, the Collect was expanded to explicitly name the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Hatchett, 191-2).

The Preamble, “O God,” doesn’t provide us with much information about the One to whom we pray.

The Acknowledgement, “because without you we are not able to please you” continues the doctrinal statement of our total dependency upon God (see The Collect for Proper 14).  As a corollary to our total dependence upon God’s grace for our existence and ability to live according to God’s will, only by God’s grace empowering our will and our actions are we able to please God.  See the second half of Paul’s sentence in Philippians 2:12-13—“for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (NRSV). 

The Petition, “mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts,” begins with an Acknowledgement of God’s merciful care of us.  This merciful grace is worked into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the baptized (see the prayer for the baptized after baptism, BCP 308 and John 14:16-18, John 16:7-14; 1 John 3:24).  Our “hearts,” as the center of our being, need directing and ruling so that we are able to resist the pull of the world and our own desires that attempt to steer us away from God’s will.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives, the Holy Spirit is working toward the unity of all of God’s people (See The Collect for Proper 16).

While the Petition focuses our attention to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen,” frames our prayer in the redeeming and restorative work of the Trinity.  Through Jesus Christ we receive the merciful grace of the Holy Spirit so that we can please God the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

How do the world’s desires or your own desires direct and rule your heart?  How do the world’s expectations direct and rule our hearts so that as a parish we strive to please the world rather than God?

How has the Holy Spirit directed our hearts so that we, as a parish, are pleasing to God?  Consider the Collects for Diocesan Visioning:  how are these prayers asking God to help us be pleasing to God? 

O God, because without you we are not able to please you,
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 233)

© 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
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

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