image :: Alabama Yard, Winter, Peter Van Dyck (2017, American)
“Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19
Thomas Cranmer’s memorable collects always had the same, simple structure. They were designed to teach people Scripture & how to pray in response to God’s Word.
Take, for example, this collect for the First Sunday in Lent:
“Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and as You know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find You mighty to save; through Jesus Christ Your Son, my Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
Year after year, the church would read and remember how Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), and so He is able to save the tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18), and is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17). And they would be led to pray in light of what God has spoken.
The format is always the same, and each collect has five parts:
1.) To Whom are we praying? The collect begins with calling God by name.
2.) What is true about this God? A brief bit of doctrine about God that is the basis for the prayer.
“…Whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan…”
3.) What do we need God to do? Asking the Lord for grace.
“…Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations…”
4.) What really good thing will result when God answers our prayer? The Lord will be glorified in His response.
“…and as You know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find You mighty to save…”
5.) Finally, I remember that the Triune God hears my prayer. Praying to God the Father, through God the Son, in the power of God the Holy Spirit.
“…through Jesus Christ Your Son, my Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
See how the prayer moves from a doctrinal basis (why we can ask for it) to the petition (what we want) to the aspiration (what we will do with it if we get it).
I’m praying that the daily collects of the 2018 Lenten Readings are a help in reflecting on what God has spoken to His people– a simple and memorable meditation on God’s Word as we follow Jesus Christ this Lenten season.