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  • The Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector’s Note: The Art of the Collect-1.25.24

Last Sunday our Confirmation class discussed the various ways that we pray as members of the Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer was particularly helpful to us, as it has a nice discussion of the forms of prayer in the catechism (p 856-857), and it also holds all of our formal prayers in one place, for easy access by all.

We took a particular look at the collects that we pray as part of our liturgies, and then took a stab at writing our own.

A collect is a prayer form that does just what it says – it is prayed by the collected assembly, and it forms a collective prayer for all. While the collect form is not unique to the Episcopal Church, I feel that we take a particular pride in it.  There is a collect at the start of each Eucharistic liturgy, and we weave them into our Morning, Noon and Evening Prayer. We have collects designated for each Sunday of the year, collects to remember particular saints, and collects for various occasions and topics, such as for church conventions and peace and daily work.

Collects are tidy little prayers that follow a set form. They generally start with an invocation to God, followed by the attribute of God that is being evoked. Then there is a petition, followed by the aspiration, or result that is hoped for. The whole prayer then pleads for the mediation of Jesus. And it all ends with a collective Amen. The shorthand for this is:


  • Who…

  • Do…

  • So that…

  • Through….


Here is a nice example from second Sunday after Epiphany (BCP 215)

Who: Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the Light of the Word,

Do: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s Glory.

So that: That he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.

Through: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

I invited our Confirmation students, who are in grades 6 through 9, to write a collect together. What did they want to ask of God? What did they want to happen as a result? This is what they came up with:

O God, who created most things.

Help Alyssa’s cat Trixie not to be afraid of Alyssa. And give us a snowstorm with packing snow, but not so sticky that people get stuck in it, but just enough to call off school. And make sure that everyone is safe in the weather.

So that Trixie and Alyssa can play. And we can have snowball fights and go sledding. And we can get more sleep. And we can hang out with our friends.

Through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

That is one honest prayer. And it did what a collect sets out to do – it collected the desires and needs of those gathered, and it wrapped them up quite nicely.  

What struck me as they put their prayer together was how important that “so that” section is. That, I think is where the heart of the prayer lies: That we may play. That we may rest. That we may enjoy friendship.

Whether these things come on the business end of a snowstorm (God has been delivering rain this week) or find their way to our students by other means, they are what the prayer is about.

I’m not sure how much attention God gives to the suggestions we put forward for how the Divine One should do the Divine work. But I do think God pays a lot of attention to the “so that” of our hearts. So that I may find peace. So that I may experience comfort. So that the world might be a better place. So that justice makes some headway.

If you struggle with how to articulate the prayers of your heart, you might try fashioning them in the form of a collect. God… who, do, so that, through… Amen. And if you do, pay especial attention to the “so that”.  It will tell you a lot about who you are, and what you hope will happen with God’s help.

Be well,

Rev. Barb

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