Among the prayers in the Daily Office, the tradition is that we pray three Collects after the Lord’s Prayer and Suffrages. The Collect of the Day is first. After that, traditionally, follow two specific collects, but in the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books those two set collects have been surrounded by a larger list of daily collects. Although the list of collects is the same in both books, our new Prayer Book (2019) identifies the traditional two, so that those who prefer to stick to the simpler original tradition can do so easily. And for those who do want to utilize the longer list, an italicized day of the week is added to each Collect’s name.
For Thursday the recommendation is the Collect for Guidance.
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is a fine prayer on its own, and is particularly appropriate for the morning as it implies a day ahead in which we need to remember God amidst all the busy distractions. On the meta level, this is kinda neat because part of the whole point of the Daily Office (and other hours-based offices like Midday and Compline) is to help us remember God throughout the day.
Some may be skeptical, however, about the Address at the beginning of this collect, in which we identify God as the one in whom we “live and move and have our being.” That sounds a bit nebulous and wishy-washy, right? If you’re down with your Greek philosophy you might even suspect this of being more of a Pagan notion of God – the generic divinity from which all spirit-life is derived. In a round-about way, you would be right. This is a quote from Epimenides of Crete, a Greek philosopher from several centuries B.C.
But it’s also a quote from Acts 17:28 – St. Paul quotes two ancient Greek poets in his address in Athens, using their statements about the divine to teach truths about the true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. If you’re sensitive to language style and use, you may recognize the Greek-ish-ness of this phrase, distinct from the Hebraisms that we’re used to in biblical turns of phrase.
Perhaps you never thought twice about this prayer; that’s fine too. I honestly only know the Ancient Greek reference because the RSV Bible I read from for a few years in a row has a footnote that identifies the two poets whom St. Paul quotes.
Anyway, apart from the “cool fun fact” side, this is also a well-matched Address for the Petition that follows. God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being – this is a continual reality, an affirmation of constant divine presence, or access. And on that basis we pray for continual awareness of that reality: may the ever-present Spirit guide and govern us in such a way that we don’t succumb to the world’s distractions and end up living as practical atheists. Traditional or not, this is a great prayer, and one that is only growing in relevance as this interconnected world invades more and more of our personal space and time.