Saturday, December 13, 2014

Appreciating the Book of Common Prayer: Collect for Peace

This week as we've been utilizing the Book of Common Prayer for our morning prayers at Trinity College, I've been expressing appreciation for some of its particular qualities.

Thoughtfully prepared corporate prayer has become more and more important to me in recent years. That's not to say I always want to go to prayer. Far from it. Some days it feels like a downright chore. But even then, what gets me there is that I want to want to pray, and on arrival there are certain things I especially want to want to pray.

Aside from the Lord's Prayer, Gloria Patri and Te Deus Laudamus, the part of the BCP I anticipate most (which does appear in other liturgies as well), is the Collect for Peace. 

For those unfamiliar with a 'Collect', it is a prayer from the leader at the end of the service which gathers up or 'collects' the intercessions and prayers and confessions that have gone before. There are several, but the Collect for Peace goes like this:

The Collect for Peace, from the Book of Common Prayer
O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The lines I particularly appreciate are those which--in the midst of a turbulent, fragmented world--lead me to confess God as the 'author of peace and lover of concord,' and to confess my own 'perfect freedom' as a life lived in service to that God.

On the face of it, the Collect for Peace could seem to heighten adversarial attitudes, but I don't read it that way. Rather than pretending one has no adversaries, the prayer leads us to be honest with ourselves. In the same breath as it renounces fear, the prayer entrusts defense into divine hands rather than taking it upon ourselves.

Furthermore, right before the Collects there are a series of short responsive prayers which focus our prayers for society, the church and their leaders, as well as for ourselves. Read responsively, they say:

Shew thy mercy upon us. And grant us thy salvation.

O Lord Save the Queen. And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.

Endue thy ministers with righteousness. And make thy chosen people joyful.

O Lord, save thy people. And bless thine inheritance.

Give peace in our time, O Lord. Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.

Make clean our hearts within us. And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

In my next (and last) post in this series, I'll share how one of our students at Trinity College helped us make sense of these potentially arcane-sounding lines. But for now let me highlight how this rapid succession of beautiful prayers leads poignantly into the Collect for Peace:

As we pray for our leaders we pray for ourselves, and in this we pray for mercy, we pray for 'peace in our time', and we confess that there is 'none other that fighteth' than God.

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