The Collect for Proper 22: The Sunday closest to October 5

Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray,
and to give more than we either desire or deserve:
Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,
except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(BCP 234)

Historical introduction:  This Collect was used in a variety of ways across the centuries:  as one of the prayers used in the autumn Ember Days (see Note below regarding Ember Days; Verona sacramentary), the concluding Collect for the Prayers of the People (Missale Francorum sacramentary, significantly revised), and for The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (the Gregorian supplement, the Sarum missal, and Prayer Books prior to our 1979 BCP).[1]  The version used in the 1979 BCP continues the use of the Trinitarian Pleading which was added in the 1662 English BCP.[2]

The Preamble, “Almighty and everlasting God,” is the same as for The Collects for the Second Sunday of Easter and Trinity Sunday.  Itinvites us to consider re-creation and governance themes in the Collect—that is, we are invited to ask where in this Collect we find a description of how God’s mighty deeds for our salvation and God’s eternality are important to the doctrinal basis of the Acknowledgement and what we ask for in the Petition.

The Acknowledgement, “you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve” orients us in our relationship with God.  God initiates, sustains, and ultimately fulfills our relationship with God’s self.  In the Petition we ask for God’s mercy; in the Acknowledgement we describe the experience of God’s mercy for God’s people.  Because God is relational and personal, our experience of God’s mercy can be expressed in intimate terms—God is a God who listens for our voice and gives good things without condition (see James 1:12-18).  God is always listening and ready to hear us, even when we don’t have the words to express ourselves (see Romans 8:26-27).  God is the real supplier of all of our needs, whether directly from the earth or the air, or indirectly through the work of others.

Hatchett offers the pastoral guidance of why we need to pray in spite of our feelings:  “[o]ur sense of our own unworthiness often makes us unwilling to pray, yet through prayer we receive forgiveness for our sins as well as ‘other good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ’.”[3]

In the Petition, “Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior,” God’s mighty deeds for our salvation come into view.  This Petition is a simple way of summarizing the Good News of God through Jesus Christ:  through God’s mercy, all that we need for our salvation is provided for us by the Holy Spirit applying the merits of Christ to us and by the Son’s intercession on our behalf (Hebrews 7:11-27, see especially verse 25; and John 16:13-15). 

“Jesus Christ’s merits” is another way of speaking of his righteousness—his life, work, ministry, and death—all of which was pleasing to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  We who are in need of forgiveness, rightly would be fearful of judgment based upon how “we have sinned against [God] in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone” and by “not lov[ing] our neighbors as ourselves” (BCP 79, 116, 360).  However, in baptism, we are united to Christ in his dying and rising (Romans 6:1-11) and we “are sealed by the Holy Spirit … and marked as Christ’s own for ever” (Holy Baptism, BCP 308).  In baptism we receive the forgiveness of sin (The Nicene Creed, BCP 327, 358).  Through Jesus’ righteousness—his merits—we are able to be God’s children (John 1:12-18), alive to God in Jesus Christ. 

Through this intimate familial relationship, not only are we given the good things that we ask for (see Luke 11:5-13), but also those things for which we are afraid or unworthy to ask (see Matthew 6:26-34).  When we are unable to ask, the Holy Spirit and our ascended Savior, Jesus, intercede for us (see Romans 8:33-35). 

This Collect doesn’t have the optional Aspiration section.

Since the working definition of the Pleading is “the formalized mediation that invokes all three persons of the Trinity to grant our request but focuses on Christ’s role as our mediator,” we can consider that the Pleading includes “except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior;” as well as “who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”  The ending of the Pleading continues the request, clearly stating the Trinitarian nature of this Collect – through the merits of Christ, who has ascended to the court of God and will return to be our judge (Nicene Creed, BCP 327, 358), and with the work of the Holy Spirit on our behalf, we are able to pray this Collect to God our Father.  Because of the eternality of the Trinity, we can rest assured that Jesus’ merits and mediation on our behalf will not end.

For your consideration:

Our Collects have been inviting us to consider how God answers even our unasked prayers.  What good things has God given to you, to us as a parish, to our diocese, and our denomination even though we didn’t think to ask? 

Often, when aware of our faults and misdeeds, it is easy to not pray for things we need or that others need.  In our Sunday worship, we pray for others before we confess our sins and receive God’s absolution.  How might this pattern and this Collect’s description of God’s mercy and Christ’s merit and mediation encourage us to pray?  Emboldened by this pattern and this Collect, for what and for whom do we as a parish need to pray?

Note:  Ember Days occur four times a year in the Church calendar.  The rubrics found in the Collects section of the BCP specify these dates as the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the Third Sunday of Advent, the First Sunday in Lent, Whitsunday (The Day of Pentecost), and Holy Cross Day (which is on September 14).  According to church history scholar Karl Kellner, these days began as Roman agricultural festivals and then later became the times for praying for those preparing for ordination.  Each set of Ember Day prayers had seasonal themes based upon the Church Year.[4]  Ember Days are now listed as Days of Optional Observance (BCP 17-18).  The Collects for these days in our present use of these traditional days of prayer and fasting are found on BCP pages 205-6 and 256-7 and are for those who are preparing for ordination, for discernment for “fit persons for the ministry,” and “for all Christians in their vocation” (BCP 256).

Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray,
and to give more than we either desire or deserve:
Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,
except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and 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), 193.

[2] Hatchett, 193

[3] Hatchett, 193.

[4] Karl Adam Heinrich Kellner,  Heortology:  A History of the Christian Festivals from their Origin to the Present Day (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1908), 186-187

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