The weekly collect is generally provided in two forms: a long, standard form and a shorter, ‘additional’ form. Today (Trinity 10) has these two collects:
Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Lord of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, give us patience and courage never to lose hope, but always to bring our prayers before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Both encourage us to pray, and both have at their heart the importance of remaining aware of God in our prayers. But each prayer presents a different aspect of how we might experience this act of praying.
I generally use the longer, standard form. The only reason I think is that I am a wordy type, wanting to continually use words to express the ever boiling cauldron of ideas in my head. The shorter version always strikes me as a cop out. In this case, however, the two messages and mindful moments that spring up from these two collects make it essential that both are said.
In the standard version we are praying to God as usual, this time as so often asking that God will hear our words and be merciful. Nothing new there. God hear our prayer. Of course God hears our prayers. Prayer is the heart of our faith, but it is always good to remind ourselves of this and so we regularly ask it, if only to be sure we know.
But then the punchline, half way through, oddly. It’s not just that we ask God to hear us, but that God might shape our prayers so that we ask only what God desires. That’s a departure certainly from what most non-prayers would assume we are up to, in cliched pose, on knees and clasped hands.
Petitioning prayers is what it’s all about, surely? We ask for things and God gives them to us (except, of course that’s the big criticism of prayer: that God doesn’t show up). To the non-theists, this prayer thing is a big delusion, and all these petitions are a big joke.
This collect reminds us all, however, that prayer is not simply (nor always) petition, but a reflection with God as to what is important in life. The standard collect encourages us to remember that our live as disciples are to be lived in relation to God, as mindful creatures (prayer=mindfulness).
The shorter prayer encourages us never to give up hope that in all we do, the prayers we share with God are as much God’s prayers as they are ours.
Each Collect leads us to God. But the longer one encourages us to consider what happens when we meet.