The up-and-coming 2019 Prayer Book appoints this Collect for the third Sunday after the Epiphany, and thus for this week in the Daily Office:
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This Collect does double duty; it comes back for “World Mission Sunday,” which the calendar recommends for the penultimate Sunday before Lent (though authorizes for any Sunday in Epiphanytide between the first and last). I’ve mentioned here before my preference to omit the World Mission Sunday option, but let’s take a look at this Collect.
As far as I’m aware, this Collect originated with the 1979 Prayer Book; it certainly has no previous life in the historic prayer book calendar tradition. It is one of the several “mission-themed” Collects that comprise the Epiphany season in the modern liturgical calendar. Arguably it is a favorite of the mission themed Collects, since it was selected for the World Mission Sunday option, too.
It begins with a rare switching of order – the petition precedes the address: “Give us grace” before “O God.” Some Collects have a longer address than others; this is one of the shortest. In fact, not only is the address brief, but the petition is brief too. It is the third part of this collect (the purpose) that occupies the majority of its verbiage. We pray for grace “to answer readily the call” and to “proclaim to all people”, so that “we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works.”
It’s not an unusual thing to pray for the mission of the church. Making it personal (“give us grace, O God…”) is a good step up from that. And taking it further to describe the purpose of such missional prayer – that all may glory in the marvelous works of God – sets before us a sort of destination. We don’t pursue evangelism and missions for the sake of “saving souls”, as it were, but so that all may see God. One of the challenges of stirring up the call to evangelism and outreach is the trap of self-aggrandizement: “look how successful we are because of all the people we’re reaching for Christ!” Keeping the purpose of evangelism and mission firmly fixed upon the glory God, not ourselves, is a helpful reminder indeed.