You may have seen the word “collect” thrown around from time to time in church. However, I wonder if you have ever thought about what the heck a collect is anyways?!
Prayer is kind of like poetry in that there are so many different ways to do it. Like poetry, it can be really free-form, or it can follow quite a set structure. Collects are prayers that usually follow the fairly set structure of You-Who-Do-You.
Firstly, collects address God – You. Secondly, collects name an attribute of God, or say something that God has done – Who. Thirdly, collects ask God for help – Do. Lastly, collects address God again – You – asking God to intercede on our behalf, tying the whole thing up neatly with a bow.
However, more interesting to me than what collects look like is what collects do. A collect focuses, gathers up everything that has just happened prior to it - you might say collects collect. I like to imagine collects as a liturgical funnel, helping us to come together in one moment, to help us move on to the next movement in the drama of the liturgy.
The collect of the day gathers our song and greetings to bring us together to listen for God’s Word. At the prayer over the gifts we are move from offering our gifts and setting the table to the action of the Eucharist. At the prayer after Communion, we collect all that has happened during the Eucharist to move on to our final blessing and sending.
You might have noticed that every time we pray one of these three collects in the liturgy, it also is preceded by the invitation “let us pray,” and then some silence. This is a real invitation, to out loud or silently pray for the things that are on your heart. The collect collects all of those prayers too.
In the Anglican tradition, the collect of the day set for the Sunday is prayed throughout the following week in Morning Prayer. So, if you want to try something that is maybe new, I invite you to try praying the collect this week. Maybe print it out, and try reading it through a couple of times, and underlining the words that really stand out to you. Maybe draw a picture or write down a few words that the collect invokes in you. There are so many options. Use it as you will, this is a gift for us, of prayer and poetry, from our tradition. Thanks be to God!
we are taught by your word
that all our doings without love are worth nothing.
Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts
that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtue;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
-The Collect for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (August 25, 2019)