Anatomy of a Collect

A collect (pronounced KAHL-lekt) is an ancient prayer form that has a certain structure. The word collect comes from the Latin phrase ecclesia collecta, which means that it is a public prayer prayed by and for the assembled church. It is modeled after the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with an address to God:

Our Father,

…and then has an attributive phrase that says something about God:

who art in heaven,

This is followed by one or more petitions:

Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses as
we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil:

…and it closes with a doxology:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

A collect also begins with an address, followed by an attributive phrase (some call this the basis for the petition that focuses on some characteristic of God) and a petition. It adds some result or benefit that  is desired, followed by a termination which is also a doxology (word of praise). Classic collects are very brief and to the point (some use the word “terse”) in their choice of words, especially for the petitions.

Here is a collect from the Book of Common Prayer for the Second Sunday in Advent (in traditional English):

Merciful God, who sent thy messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our
Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This has all the parts. We will use this color coding for identification:

Address, attributive phrase, petition, result, termination.

Merciful God, who sent thy messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our
Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A collect may omit one of these and still be considered a collect. The collect for the First Sunday in Advent in the Book of Common Prayer has no attributive phrase.

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the
works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now
in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ
came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when
he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the
quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through
him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Some collects, especially the longer prayers in rites found in agendas (liturgy books), are extended collects. An extended collect sometimes has longer phrases, or sometimes has more than one attributive phrase, petition or result. Look at this extended collect by Veit Dietrich:

Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank you that you have sown the good seed of your holy Word in our hearts. By your Holy Spirit cause this seed to grow and bring forth fruit, and defend us from the enemy, that he may not sow weeds there. Keep us from worldly security, help us in all temptations and give us at last eternal salvation; through your beloved Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

See how the attributive phrase that says something about our heavenly Father becomes a petition of thanks by itself, “…we thank you that you have sown the good seed of your holy Word in our hearts.” And then there are several petitions alternating with two results.

The termination is a reminder of Jesus’ invitation for us to bring all things to the Father in his name (John 15:16). “Through Jesus Christ our Lord” is a simple or short termination. The full termination is also a confession of faith in the Triune God. “….through (your Son,) Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Some scholars believe that this full trinitarian termination was added shortly after the Council of Nicea in A. D. 325 as an added confession that we pray to and confess the one true God who reveals himself to us in Scripture as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

St. Paul used a form, very much like a collect, in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. Look at the attributive phrases (…who has blessed us in Christ with every spritiual blessing…), the phrases that express desired results (…to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.)

To read classic collects, click here:  https://acollectionofprayers.wordpress.com/tag/collect/

To read extended collects, click here: https://acollectionofprayers.wordpress.com/tag/extended-collect/

See Luther D. Reed in The Lutheran Liturgy, p. 279-287, and Fred Precht in Lutheran Worship, History and Practice, p. 411-412.

See also “How to Make a You-Who-Do-To-Through Prayer.”

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pastorstratman

Lutheran pastor serving St. Stephen's in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

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