The Short Prayer


"Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right; that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will;" (Collect for the 9th Sunday after Trinity)


I thought today we would do something a little different. Instead of looking at either the Epistle or Gospel reading for today’s homily we would look at the Collect for the Day. The Epistle and Gospel readings contain the word of God and the Collect is the words of mankind. So lets’ start with understanding what a collect is. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church provides this definition of a collect – “The short form of prayer, constructed (with many varieties of detail) from (1) an invocation, (2) a petition, and (3) a pleading of Christ’s name or an ascription of glory to God”.

The writings of Pope Leo 1st show that such prayers were common as far back as the 5th century. Early collects were always addressed to the Father; but since the Middle Ages collects addressed to the Son have been regularly admitted to the liturgy. The collects in the BCP are mostly derived from medieval sources, especially the Sarum Missal and Breviary. Several are original compositions of Thomas Cranmer.


Today’s collect is a Leonine Collect, taken over by the Gelasian Sacramentary, one of those medieval sources. It expresses as succinctly as possible the whole doctrine of grace. Without God’s Spirit we can neither think and will right things nor live and act according to His will. In the original Latin wording the force of this truth is made even stronger by the phrase, “that we who cannot [even] exist without thee”. The wording in today’s Collect “that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee,” is that of the 1662 revisers of the BCP.


The Grace of God is an often misunderstood subject.  Grace is kindness extended to us that we do not deserve, it is a gift from God not something we can earn by trying to follow the law “that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will”.  Grace is an outward expression of the love God has for us and today’s collect we ask him for this gift; “Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee the spirit to think and do always such things as are right”.  


The Grace of God cannot be separated and categorized from the person of God (Our Heavenly Father, Jesus or the Holy Spirit).  The fruit of the Holy Spirit stemming from love cannot be separated from Him because they are synonymous with who He is. His Grace flows to us, simply because of His great love for us. Mankind needs the Grace of God and that Grace comes to us in only one way, Jesus.  We place our faith in Jesus and this is where Grace enters our lives. 


Because of our fallen or sinful nature no matter how hard we try, we can not measure up to the standard of perfection that the law demands.  Remember “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”. It is impossible for any person to follow the letter of the law with total success even if they have the sheer determination or resolve to do it.  This is why every person who seeks to justify himself by the law is held guilty before God.  There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn even the smallest amount of Grace from Heaven, because it is not something that we earn by our good works or adherence to the law, it is given freely to us. We must strive to live by the law and be like Jesus Christ all the while realizing that we can never achieve it. In reality Grace is extended to help us change into the likeness of Christ after our introduction to Jesus. Under the law by our own effort, it is impossible to change into His likeness.


Christians can also receive God’s grace because Jesus died on the cross to save sinners. I dare say that many people can understand Grace as it pertains to our Salvation.  Salvation is based solely on the Grace that was extended to us by way of the sacrifice that the Lord Jesus Christ made when He was crucified for our sins.  We don’t deserve the Grace He extends to us but He gave it to us out of love. Our fallen nature is what separates us from God. God is Holy and we cannot approach Him with our imperfections without the blood that Jesus shed for us.  But with Jesus, we are reunited in fellowship with God. However, prior to the receiving this Grace, we must repent.  Understanding that it is by Jesus that we receive Grace to help in time of need, we can clearly see that our dependence on Him is vital to our future.


We can break the Collect for Today down into its three parts, the invocation - "Grant to us, Lord,”, the petition - “we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right” and the pleading - “that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will”.  This Collect differs from the wedding anniversary and birthday prayer you hear earlier in that it does not have the ending these other prayers had “through Jesus Christ our Lord”. And that is The Short Prayer.


May the Grace of God be always with you.




And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN