A “Collect” is a prayer that is meant to gather, or collect the intentions of the faith community and/or the focus of worship into a succinct prayer. In this definition, the pronunciation emphasizes the first syllable, “CAH-llect,” somewhat different than the usual pronunciation of the word collect as in, “She will collect the rent.”
All Collects more or less fit into a pattern that was developed by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop who compiled the first Book of Common Prayer, in 1549. The format has 4 basic parts:
1. An address to God and God’s actions in the world on our behalf.
2. A request or petition.
3. An invocation and doxology, offered through Jesus and affirming the Trinity.
4. Amen ~ an opportunity for the people to affirm the presider, meaning: “So be it” or “We agree.”
We open our service with the “Collect for Purity:”
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This particular Collect serves as a compact confession of sin. It reminds us of the need for penitence, and also for the forgiveness that we find in Jesus. Interestingly, it doesn’t ask for the presence of God, it assumes God’s presence. It also serves as an acknowledgement by the community that it is God who cleanses the heart through the Holy Spirit, and God who turns us toward Godself as we worship. It grounds our human activity in worship on the previous action of God through the Holy Spirit, not through the efforts of the community itself. In other words, it is God who transforms us into worshippers, and our purpose in gathering is to worship God.
Each Sunday, we begin the Liturgy of the Word with a Collect of the Day. This is a special Collect that focuses on the theme of the readings. This Sunday our Collect for Pentecost will be:
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
470 years after the first Book of Common Prayer, we are still using many of Thomas Cranmer’s Collects. For more information, please refer to:
The Collects of Thomas Cranmer by: C. Fredrick Barbee and Paul F. M. Zahl, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1999.