Praying with a Point
Lately, I have been meditating on the centuries old practice of praying collects (from the latin collecta— to gather). Traditionally, these prayers are written down, and they certainly can be used as such. But what has particularly peaked my interest is that they all have the same basic structure, and can be used as a helpful template for fashioning our own extemporaneous prayers.
Each collect revolves around a central petition which gives the prayer unity. Flowing to and from this petition, the prayer itself has 5 basic ingredients.
First comes the invocation in which God is named and hailed. This leads in turn to a description of some attribute, work, or promise of God that has particular relevance to the request we are about to make. Following directly from this we have the request itself, and after that it can be helpful to list the motivations behind our supplication. The collect concludes in the name of Christ with an amen.
Let’s look at a traditional Anglican morning collect. Now it is a little more complicated than either you or I could dream up on the spot, but note the structure:
“O Lord, our Heavenly Father, Almighty and Everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day; defend us in the same with Your mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Let’s see if we can’t generate some examples. As you read them, note the central request(s) in each collect and also how the preceding invocation and description of God prepares the supplicant to make this request in faith, hope, and love.
Grant, O Everlasting Father, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, that You would keep us this night as we rest. Watch over us, protect us from all evil and danger, and wake us refreshed in the morning ready to seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness in Christ, amen.
Teach me, O God of truth, that Your word which is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, would search out the deepest recesses of my heart this day, in order that I might better know myself, and grow up in the grace and knowledge of Christ, in whose Name I pray, amen.
Grant, O Holy Father, who are of purer eyes than to behold evil, grant that You would restrain and curb the dark desires of my heart, enable me to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles, and to run with endurance the race set before me, looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of my faith, so that I might live a life worthy of your Son in whose name I pray, amen.
Grant, Almighty God, that you who are my refuge and strength, and an ever present help in time of trouble, would help me this day to stand strong against the world, the flesh, and the devil. For surely greater is He that is in me than he who is in the world. I lay hold of You in the all prevailing Name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, amen.
Grant, most Merciful Heavenly Father, that you who open Your hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing, would stoop today to provide for the needs of my family according to your riches in grace by Christ Jesus, so that I might experience the truth of the Psalmists, “I have been young, and now I have am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” In Christ, I pray, amen.
Forgive, O God, my sins, for You know my folly, and my wrongs cannot be hidden from you. Have mercy upon me in Jesus name, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me for your glory. For you hold the heart of every man in Your hand, and have assured me that you are ready and willing to turn my heart away from my sin so that I might live a life fully pleasing to you in Jesus Name.
Grant, O Lord God of Hosts, whose grace has appeared bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, grant me grace to live soberly, righteously, and godly in Christ Jesus, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of His coming. So that I might be redeemed from every lawless deed, and be zealous for good deeds. For Christ’s sake, I pray, amen!
Grant, O Shepherd of Israel, your flock, that you who know the end from the beginning, who has appointed the dwelling place of every creature under heaven, and who holds the life of each sparrow in Your hand—grant, O God, that you would lead and guide me as I consider the wisest course of action today in_____________. Help me to trust in the Lord with all my heart, to lean not on my own understanding, and in all of my ways to acknowledge you, and in your great mercy, make Your way straight before me in Christ, amen.
Grant, O God of Light, in whose light we see light, that as I read the Scriptures this morning— grant me to hear your voice, open my eyes to behold the glory of your Son, incline my heart towards you, and direct my feet in your ways, for Christ sake, amen.
How do you do this? It’s really a simple process:
1. Ask yourself: What do I want God to do for me? It is amazing how we start praying without getting clear on this important point.
2. Think: What names, attributes, works, or promises of God specifically relate to this request.
3. Why do I want God to answer this prayer? Do I have God glorifying motives behind this request? List them.
4. Get to prayer.
The benefits of this way of praying are manifold:
1. They deliver us from disconnected, thoughtless prayers.
2. They act on us to stir up our faith. The character, works, and promises of God are always the best food of faith.
3. In Scripture, God repeatedly records the example of people telling God why they want him to answer their prayers (Daniel 9:1-19). Evidently, such thoughtfulness glorifies Him.
In all of this, however, we do well to remember that our heavenly Father does not hear us because we pray well or properly. Getting the formula right is not the key. Our Father hears us only for Jesus’ sake. All you need is Jesus for an audience with God. With that said, however, prayer is difficult, and like many things in life, having a well thought out structure helps. It does some of the heavy lifting for us and makes getting started that much easier. Be encouraged to pray, Christian, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry.” (Psalm 34:15, NASB95). Your prayers are never in vain. Even when they don’t change our circumstances, they have the wonderful habit of changing us, which is ever our greatest need before the face of God.