The Collect for Proper 12 (or, in classical prayer books, for the 12th Sunday after Trinity) is a truly humble prayer. If you want to see an example of what it means to pray with a humble heart, look no further.
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This prayer acknowledges several things that takes our egos down a notch.
- God is more ready to hear than we are to pray.
- God gives us more than we desire or deserve.
- God forgives us the things of which we’re afraid to ask for forgiveness.
- God gives us god things that we’re not worthy even to ask for.
- We’re only worthy to ask God for things through the merits of another: Jesus Christ our Savior.
If you chase down some Scripture references this one prayer could be turned into a Bible Study, even a sermon! And why not? let’s grab a few verses right now.
- Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. – Isa. 65:24
- God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. – 1 Kings 3:11-12
- I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
Sometimes in a conservative, confessional, liturgical, or otherwise traditional church setting, we might find ourselves downplaying the prodigal love of God toward us, preferring to take a more severe and sober attitude concerning our sinfulness or concupiscence, pushing back against the excesses of pop-evangelical culture, or worse, the prosperity gospel heretics who go on about bastardized versions of “God’s love” all the time. It’s important, with prayers such as this one, to maintain that biblical balance between sober awareness of our sinfulness and joyful recognition of God’s loving-kindness.
So enjoy this prayer for the rest of the week, and revel in God’s love for you! (But if you’re in a classical-prayer-book parish, then I guess you have to wait another month or so for your turn with this Collect!)