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)

Historical introduction:  This Collect was used at the beginning of a majority of the Sunday Eucharists during the season after Pentecost as early as the mid-8th century (Gelasian sacramentary).[1]  The Sarum Missal and the earlier Prayer Books used this Collect for The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.  In the 1662 English BCP the Collect’s Pleading was expanded to its present form by explicitly naming the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.[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 also The Collect for Proper 14, BCP 232).  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.  The work of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives is to shape us, as the Church, to be united in our mission to show forth God’s power (See The Collect for Proper 16, BCP 232-3).

While the Petition focuses our attention on 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, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

For your consideration:

How do you know if it is the world’s desires or your own desires that direct and rule your heart?  (Note:  to consider what the world’s desires look like in contrast to God’s desires, see the Litany of Penitence from the Ash Wednesday service, BCP 267-9, and the Baptismal Covenant, BCP 304-5.) 

In what ways do the world’s expectations direct and rule our hearts so that as a parish, a diocese, and as a denomination, 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?  Asked another way, how are we living into the Baptismal Covenant? 

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.

© 2022 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick


[1] Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book, (New York:  Harper Collins, 1995), 191-2.

[2] Hatchett, 191-2.

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