Prayers for Mission in the Evening

The prayers for mission in Evening Prayer are less directly concerned with evangelism or outreach compared to the Morning Prayer collects.  With the day drawing to a close, and its work ending, these prayers appropriately reflect on the results and signs of the missio Dei (God’s mission) in our lives and churches.


The first prayer looks to the end-goal of missions work: the universal worship of God.  The worship of the “whole heavens” sets the paradigm for the whole earth, all nations, all tongues – men, women, and children.  This prayer also reminds us that worship entails peaceful love and service.

O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore:
Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men, women, and children everywhere love you and serve you in peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer was first published in 1933 and entered the Prayer Book in 1979.  The original phrase “men and women everywhere” has been changed to include children in this edition.


The second collect has been attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo though its origins remain unclear.  A form of it was included in the evening intercessions printed in a 1919 service book, The order of divine service for public worship.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

This beloved collect, also used in Compline, prays for the “works of mercy” angle of mission, with the evening and nighttime as the specific focus.  Rather than drawing upon the usual night-dark-sin-death line of imagery, this prayer draws the worshiper to a posture of compassion toward others “who work, or watch, or weep” while others sleep.  And then, rather than directing us to minister to such persons, the prayer instead implores Jesus to tend, give rest, bless, soothe, pity, and shield others.  It is a sobering and touching reminder that Christian acts of mercy are the work of Christ himself.  And all that because of his love for a working, watching, and weeping world.


As if it’s building off of the previous prayer for mission, the third collect reminds us up front that the signs of his presence are made manifest in his servants, that is, people who carry out acts of love and service toward others.  Rather than a prayer about mission directly, thus, this prayer deals with the in-house benefits of a mission-minded life.  As Christians serve as Christ’s presence in the world, his “abounding grace” increases in our own midst.  The “Spirit of love” and “companionship with one another” together create a healthful community – a church – that makes Jesus present both to us and to the whole world.

O God, you manifest in your servants the signs of your presence:
Send forth upon us the Spirit of love,
that in companionship with one another your abounding grace may increase among us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This collect is a 1979 revision of a prayer written by William Bright in his 1864 book Ancient Collects.  Its original form dates back to the 8th century.

An evening prayer for Saturday

This prayer was translated from the Sarum Breviary in Selina F. Fox’s A Chain of Prayer Across the Ages, published in 1913, and adopted as a collect for Saturday in Evening Prayer in the 1979 Prayer Book.

Collect for the Eve of Worship

O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon us who watch for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship on the morrow give you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Like most of the other weekend prayers in the Daily Office, this collect draws upon both night-day imagery and Cross-Eternity theological references. God is the source of eternal light who brings unending day, thus our response of praise is found in our lips and lives, with “our worship on the morrow” as a specific example thereof.  Thus, once again, the life of salvation is marked by worship both now and forever.

An evening prayer for Friday

Dating back to at least the Didache, if not the apostolic age itself, Fridays have been a day of special devotion and discipline in Christian tradition.  This is linked to why we worship together on Sundays: as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on the Lord’s Day, so we also observe the death of our Lord with a fast on Friday.  It is the part of the weekly rhythm of the Christian spiritual life: fasting and penitence upon our Lord’s death, sabbath rest on the day of his repose, and gathering with joy to worship the risen Lord on his resurrection day.  Along those lines, this prayer directs us right to the death of Christ, celebrating the victory Jesus wrought thereby, referencing  texts such as 1 Corinthians 15:56 and Romans 6:5.  We then turn to the reality of our own death – we pray that we would die a “peaceful” (that is, prepared-for and accepting) death, faithfully following Jesus through death toward our own resurrection unto glory.  It is an eschatological prayer, looking ahead to the end of all things, through and beyond even death itself.

A Collect for Faith

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death:
Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way,
that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness;
for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.

This collect seems to have originated in a supplemental liturgical volume called The Priest’s Prayer Book, by R. F. Littledale and J. E. Vaux, which went through several edition throughout the 19th century.  It first entered the Prayer Book tradition in 1892 as one of the Additional Prayers supplied at the end of the Burial service.  There it remained in the 1928 Prayer Book, in the Rite II Burial Office in 1979, and in 2019.  In 1979, however, it was also introduced as a “Collect for Fridays” in Evening Prayer, where it remains in the present book.

An evening prayer for Thursday

This prayer draws upon the experience of the disciples who did not recognize Jesus until after he had opened the Scriptures to them and broken bread with them (Luke 24:13-35).  The worshiper invites a similar degree of fellowship with Jesus, beseeching his continued presence that our hearts would burn with zeal and hope, and that we would grow to recognize him in Word and Sacrament alike.  In the cycle of the week, where Sunday is the day of resurrection and Friday is the day of the crucifixion, it makes sense that this prayer should land on Thursday as a memorial of Maundy Thursday, when our Lord first instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion at that Supper.

Collect for the Presence of Christ

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past;
be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope,
that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread.
Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

This collect originates in The Liturgy of the Hours, promulgated for the Roman Church by Pope Paul VI in 1974.  It was, and remains, the concluding Collect in Vespers for Monday of Week IV in that cycle of daily prayers.  The American Prayer Book of 1979 pulled this collect into a similar position in Evening Prayer, though common usage (now endorsed in the present Prayer Book) landed it on Thursday instead of Monday.  The Liturgy of the Hours has since revised the wording of this collect, but it remains here in its 1979 form.

An evening prayer for Wednesday

This collect was written by Bishop William Reed Huntington, compiled from pieces of several ancient collects, and proposed for the 1892 Prayer Book, but was not adopted until 1928, where it serves as one of the additional collects for Family Prayer on page 595.  Some minor edits to the wording were implemented in 1979 – “the life of mortal men” became “the life of all who live”, “the timely blessings of the day” became “the blessings of the day that is past” – all of which were retained here.

A Collect for Protection

O God, the life of all who live, the light of the faithful,
the strength of those who labor, and the repose of the dead:
We thank you for the blessings of the day that is past,
and humbly ask for your protection through the coming night.
Bring us in safety to the morning hours;
through him who died and rose again for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

As this prayer was compiled from several ancient collects, so are its devotional references numerous.  God is our life, our light, our strength, our repose; we thank him for all the blessings we receive and seek his special protection in our times of weakness, looking toward the safety of a future “morning” which is just as much a spiritual as it is a chronological dawn.  The death and resurrection of Jesus is the basis through which we pray, which is a fairly common appeal at the end of a collect but is particularly appropriate as these central Gospel realities are the basis on which we can turn to God for any of the things in this prayer.

An evening prayer for Monday

Since the Early Church, this prayer has found several functions: the Collect for a votive mass for Peace, a prayer after the Rogation litany, until Archbishop Cranmer placed it as one of the Evening Prayer collects.  The wording has undergone some slight changes in recent times; it is substantially different in the 1979 Prayer Book but rolled back closer to the original wording here.

O God, the source of all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works: Give to your servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

The world, the flesh, and the devil are forces that turn us away from God; those are the real threats against whom we need protection, and against whom we must fight.  For, as the Daily Office prayers for Peace express, Peace is not found in avoidance of conflict, but in steadfastness despite conflict; God will defend us from fear so that we can “pass our time in rest and quietness.”  With our trust placed in God’s defense and our hearts set to obey his commandments, we find ourselves on the solid ground of God’s Word, in the footsteps of Jesus, in cooperation with the Spirit.  There, we can withstand the wiles of the world, the flesh, and the devil; there can be found peace that cannot be found anywhere else.

An evening prayer on Sunday

This collect is a 1979 revision of a prayer written by William Bright in his 1864 book Ancient Collects.  Its primary biblical allusion is to Revelation 21.

Lord God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ triumphed over the powers of death
and prepared for us our place in the new Jerusalem:
Grant that we, who have this day given thanks for his resurrection,
may praise you in that City of which he is the light,
and where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

An excellent blend of biblical theology and liturgical devotion, this prayer gives the worshiper a summary of the significance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day and directs our hearts accordingly.  This is the day Jesus “triumphed over the powers of death” on the Cross, simultaneously preparing a place for us “in the new Jerusalem” – both the past and the future are bound together in this observation.  Our devotion is the same: our praises in the morning now-past are to be consummated in our eternal praises “in that City.”  Thus we find our place firmly between the Cross and the Eschaton.

The Nunc Dimittis in the Prayer Book

The use of the Song of Simeon as a daily canticle is as ancient as the other two Gospel Canticles, but its placement in the Anglican tradition is different.  Before the Reformation, the Nunc Dimittis was the canticle for Compline, and when Archbishop Cranmer reduced the several monastic hours to two offices, this canticle found a new home in Evening Prayer, just as various morning offices were combined into Morning Prayer.

Psalm 67 was soon added as an alternative to the Nunc Dimittis, provided it was not the twelfth day of the month (when that Psalm was one of the Psalms Appointed).  The first American Prayer Book replaced the Nunc with either Psalm 67 or 103:1-4,20-22.  The 1892 Prayer Book restored the Nunc Dimittis alongside those psalms, which was maintained in the 1928.  The 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books both present the Nunc Dimittis, with the Magnificat, as the default canticles of Evening Prayer, though other canticles and psalms are permitted in their place.

Like the other two Gospel Canticles, the Nunc Dimittis is from early in St. Luke’s Gospel and looks at the birth of Christ.  This one stands out, however, as it takes place after the birth of Jesus, and beholds the child.  The use of the present tense is no longer prophetic but narrative: God’s promises have been fulfilled, Jesus has been seen.  While the Nunc Dimittis shares the Benedictus’ focus on the Gospel of salvation, it is here applied to the Gentiles, the nations or peoples beyond Israel.  Jesus is Israel’s glory, and the light for the Gentiles.

The wording of this canticle has been substantially edited since its previous modernization in 1979, such that it now more closely resembles the classical Prayer Book language.  God is letting his servant “depart in peace” (correcting the unfortunate connotations of “have set your servant free” ) according to his word. Simeon’s eyes have seen “your salvation” – an important distinction as Jesus is not only “the Savior” but salvation incarnate.  The distinction between “to enlighten” (1979) and “lighten” (classical and 2019) is subtle yet still significant: the light Christ brings is not only the internal wisdom and knowledge of enlightenment but also an external source of light that lightens us from without.  Thus the work and Spirit of God is proclaimed more clearly as a divine work and can not be reduced to a merely human spiritual breakthrough.

the Magnificat in the Prayer Book

Like the Benedictus, this is a Gospel Canticle drawn from Luke 1.  Where that canticle focuses on the work of salvation by Jesus Christ, especially as to be preached by John, this canticle focuses on the experience of salvation to be wrought by Jesus, particularly in line with the language of the Old Testament prophets.

Comments on the Text

In the text of this canticle, the Blessed Virgin Mary “magnifies” or “proclaims the greatness” of God, rejoicing in a litany of wonderful accomplishments that have been brought about by his hand.  The first five verses (as the Prayer Book prints it) are more personal.  She is a lowly handmaiden, regarded by the Lord, all generations will called her blessed for the great honor bestowed on her in becoming the mother of Jesus, God-in-the-flesh.  This special role granted to her in the course of salvation history magnifies her name, akin to how she magnifies God in her prayer.

Her observation “his mercy is on those who fear him” forms a transition from the first to the second half of the canticle.  With what comes before, she includes herself as one who fears God and been shown great mercy and grace, but her inclusion of “all generations” indicates that the entire world shall be blessed by the Son she then carried.

In the second half, Mary’s several “He has…” statements are easier to pray in the context of the Church’s worship after the fact, but form very much a groundbreaking text.  Worshipers can look back to the Cross and easily proclaim that God has shown his strength, scattered the proud, brought down the mighty, exalted the humble, and so forth.  And, although we can rightly celebrate this through Mary’s Canticle, the placement of these words before the birth of Jesus indicate that there is a Gospel to celebrate even then.  In the incarnation itself, God has begun the several reversals that these verses describe.  As the final verses sums them up, it is a matter of God bringing his ancient promises to fruition.  As far back as Abraham, the course of salvation history has been driving relentlessly toward the appearance of God’s Anointed One (or Messiah, or Christ) who finally appears in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thus, in the evening, the worshiper celebrates the faithfulness of God who keeps his promises and has initiated a great reversal of worldly values and powers in the provision of his Son.

On a secondary note, this Canticle also provides the worshiper with the primary biblical example of what it is to venerate Mary.  All generations will call her blessed, God has regarded her lowliness, he has magnified her.  And all this is celebrated in the context of her role in God’s work of redemption: his ancient promises see their answer in her womb, in accordance with her faithfulness.  Where, with most Saints, the Church remembers their faith and works that point backwards in time to Christ, Mary’s faith and actions point to a present Christ.  She “received Jesus” in a more literal sense than anyone else – this is a blessed magnification that God has bestowed upon her, and the Church celebrates the work of the Lord in her.

History in the Prayer Books

This canticle has been a part of the Evening Prayer of the Church (or Vespers) at least since the 5th century Rule of Saint Benedict.  The Prayer Book tradition has maintained its position as the first canticle – the one read after the Old Testament lesson – excepting only the first American Prayer Book.  Although the Additional Directions for the Daily Office in the 1979 Book suggested more variable use of it, the primary text of the liturgy still held the Magnificat in its traditional place.

The classical Prayer Books appointed Psalm 98 as an alternative.  The first American Prayer Book appointed Psalm 98 and 92 instead of the Magnificat, and those two Psalms remained as options alongside the Magnificat in the subsequent two Prayer Books.

About the Phos Hilaron

Greek for “gladsome light”, Phos Hilaron is a hymn that was already considered a time-honored tradition over 1,600 years ago.  Functionally, it offers a word of praise while the lamps or candles are lit in a chapel or home for the evening.  Deeper, the lyrics describe the sanctification of time that good liturgy inevitably does: “as we come to the setting of the sun… we sing your praises.”  And yet, God is “worthy at all times to be praised.”  That “happy voices” are appropriate for the worship of God can be a stumbling block – what if the worshiper does not feel happy one day?  The idea of happiness in biblical literature, from which this hymn is certainly derived, is nearly identical with blessedness.  Like Psalm 1:1, “Happy/Blessed is the man…” we also ought to read here – God is worthy to be praised by the voices of God’s blessed people.  We are therefore comforted, also, that even if we do not emotionally feel happy, we know that there is a fundamental happiness, or joy, that we can derive from the blessings of God that we have already received.  This is spelled out with an example in the next line where Jesus is proclaimed as the “Giver of Life”, and celebrated with the final assertion that he is to be glorified “though all the worlds” – that is, saints in heaven and earth alike are united in the worship of the eternal God.

O gladsome light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,*
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,*
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,*
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

This anthem was introduced into the Prayer Book tradition in 1979.  Only one translation change has been made in this version: the “gracious light” has become a “gladsome light.”  It is a lamp-lighting hymn drawn from ancient Christian custom (especially in the Byzantine and Ambrosian rites), being referenced as far back as 379AD by St. Basil the Great.  Several metricized versions of this anthem can be found in Anglican hymnals.

The rubrics permit another hymn or Psalm to be used in its place, acknowledging the Western custom of having a variety of Office Hymns according to the season or occasion.