The Prayers for Mission at Morning Prayer

The inclusion of a Prayer for Mission at this point in the Daily Office was introduced in the 1979 Prayer Book.  Most of the prayers in that book are retained here, but some changes have been made. One of the chief concerns of 20th century evangelicalism is the work of mission, bringing the Gospel to all peoples, tribes, and nations, locally and abroad.  The Canadian Prayer Book of 1962 put a particular mission focus into its office of Prayers at Mid-Day and the American Book of 1979 put six prayers for mission into the Daily Office – three for the Morning and three for the Evening.  Some of the content has changed for the 2019 Prayer Book, but the function is the same: we have a group of prayers for mission to keep us mindful of God’s work throughout the world in various ways.

The First in Morning Prayer.  This prayer was not among the 1979 Prayers for Mission in the Daily Office, but a version of it was Additional Prayer #9 in the appendix of that book.  Before that, it has a long history of use in both Prayer Book and pre-Reformation tradition, serving as the Collect for a couple different Votive Masses in the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries and the Sarum missal, as one of the final collects of the Litany of 1544, and as an extra collect at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer in the 1662 Prayer Book.

Almighty and everlasting God, who alone works great marvels: Send down upon our clergy and the congregations committed to their charge the life-giving Spirit of your grace, shower them with the continual dew of your blessing, and ignite in them a zealous love of your Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Previous Prayer Books have entitled this prayer, “For Clergy and People”, which identifies the angle of its missional focus.  The mission of the church is to be carried out by congregations and their clergy together by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  God’s continual blessing is requested, and zealous love for the Gospel is identified as another gift to empower this mission.

The Second in Morning Prayer.  A Missionary Bishop in India wrote this prayer and it was subsequently adopted into the Additional Prayers and Thanksgivings in the 1892 and 1928 Prayer Books.  With further minor revisions along the way it took its current place in the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books.

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer looks to our common humanity across the world, imploring God to grant that all would “feel after” or “seek after” him.  The appeal to the pouring of God’s Spirit upon all flesh in the Book of Joel and on the Day of Pentecost also gives this prayer an eschatological tone: it is the destiny or calling of humanity to unite in Christ’s kingdom.  Thus we are encouraged to see the mission of the church from the angle of preaching this peace, or unity, to the whole world.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the Cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.  Amen.

The Third in Morning Prayer.  The third prayer was written by Bishop Charles Henry Brent in a book published in 1907.  Its Prayer Book debut was in 1979, and its position was maintained in the 2019 Book.

Where the second prayer contains a brief appeal to the work of Christ’s (in his preaching) this one centers entirely on the example of Christ (on the Cross).  As Jesus’ arms were stretched out wide as if to embrace the world, so too must we stretch out our hands in love to a world that needs “the knowledge and love” of him.  Although the tone of this prayer is decidedly modern, in keeping with its authorship, the devotional angle of Christ’s embrace of the universe on the Cross is of ancient origin.

On the Collect for Purity

Before the Reformation, this was a vesting prayer said by the celebrant before the Mass began. Archbishop Cranmer moved it to the second prayer of the Communion liturgy (following the Lord’s Prayer) in the Prayer Books.  The celebrant was to pray this kneeling at the Altar Table.  When the Communion liturgy was substantially re-ordered in the 1979 Book, this collect was rendered optional, but was still the second prayer (now following the Acclamation).  The present edition has retained the position of this prayer in the liturgy, returned it to a required piece of the liturgy, but opened it up to be a prayer said also by the congregation rather than only by the minister on their behalf.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

When reception of Holy Communion was less frequent, greater efforts were taken by the typical church-goer to prepare for its worthy reception.  Special acts of self-examination and other devotions on the holy mysteries of God’s grace toward sinners were standard fare for Christians of many stripes and traditions.  In this age of weekly Communion as the standard practice, the strictness of preparation and the depths of eucharistic piety have waned.  This prayer, when said by the congregation with the celebrant, reclaims an aspect of historic devotion in preparation for the Sacrament.

The Collect for Purity also provides for the worshiper both instruction and a model concerning right preparation for worship in general.  When we come to worship the Lord, we do not invite God’s presence among us, but rather seek his aid in preparing “the thoughts of our hearts” to enter into his.  God is already with us by virtue of his Word and Spirit; it is we who must be invited and aided to love him perfectly and worthily magnify his holy Name.

On Prayers for the Departed

“Why would you pray for the dead? They’re already with Jesus!”

Such is the common well-meaning retort from most Protestants today when they hear us pray for the faithful departed. This is an ancient practice of the Church, but it seems that the Romans have cornered the market when it comes to explanation. They, famously, believe in Purgatory, wherein the souls of ordinary Christians are purged of their lifetime of sin before beholding the fullness of the Beatific Vision, or (more crassly), going to heaven. While this doctrine could be interpreted in a benign fashion – simply the clearing of our spiritual eyes after a life of sin and darkness – it has typically been presented in very penitential terms: the soul is tortured, exposed to the pains of hell for a period of time depending upon how much sin went unconfessed, lightened by indulgences and prayers and masses on their behalf.

Anglican prayers for the departed has no place for that.

Actually, some say that Anglicans have no place for any prayers for the departed. We had some in the first Prayer Book, and got rid of them a few years later, only to see the extreme Anglo-Catholic wing bring them back in the 20th century and the liberals tolerating it under the guise of “tradition.” But this explanation is not strictly true. The Prayer Books have always included prayer for the departed.

If we look at what our reformed liturgy, 1549 to the present, actually says, we will find that our practice is quite far from Roman superstition.

The Prayers of the People in the 1549 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy prayed for

all other thy servants, which are departed hence from us, with the sign of faith, and now do rest in the sleep of peace: Grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy, and everlasting peace, and that, at the day of the general resurrection, we and all they which be of the mystical body of thy Son, may altogether be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: ‘Come unto me, O ye that be blessed of my Father, and possess the Kingdom, which is prepared for you, from the beginning of the world’.

This was dropped from subsequent Prayer Books until the American book of 1928, which prayed

for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.

In between, the 1662 Prayer Book contained a similar, if more subtle, prayer for the departed in the penultimate prayer of the Burial rite:

Almighty God… we give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world; beseeching thee that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory

The final Collect in the 1662 Burial service reuses some of the material from the 1549 Prayer Book quoted above, acknowledging the future consummation of the Christian hope of resurrection unto eternal life.  This is the common acknowledgement throughout the Prayer Book tradition – that God’s will, or plan, for his people has not yet reached its conclusion.  We pray for the departed no longer with the fear or urgency of late medieval piety, which errantly believed in the departed souls’ need to move through Purgatory, but instead with personal affection and biblical hope that all is not as it yet should be.

The Prayers of the People in the 2019 Prayer Book summarize it this way:

We remember before you all your servants who have departed this life in your faith and fear, that your will for them may be fulfilled

The 2019 Litany offers a more specific explanation of this will:

To grant to all the faithful departed eternal life and peace, We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

Thus the prayers for the departed in the Prayer Book tradition is drawn from biblical doctrine rather than from later superstitions.

The Collects for the Day of the Week

In the 2019 Prayer Book’s Daily Office, we have a collect for each day of the week. This is an adaptation of the collects offered in the 1979 Prayer Book, but before then in the Prayer Book there were fixed collects: the Collect of the Day, followed by two in the morning and two in the evening. Additional (optional) collects were usually offered in most Prayer Books, too, but those lists eventually grew longer and became the “appendix” of occasional prayers in the modern books.

Here is a quick handy guide to previous posts about the various collects in the 2019 Book.

Collect of the Day: why?

Morning Prayer

Evening Prayer

The Prayers for Mission

Finishing Compline

Although in the classical Anglican Prayer Books the Nunc Dimittis is resident in Evening Prayer, its place in the spirituality of liturgical time most fully comes into its own here in Compline.  The language of “let your servant depart in peace” is an integral part of this office’s devotional emphases on sleep as an image of death, and the light of Christ transforming both the worshiper and the world.  For further notes, see Evening Prayer.

This Canticle has been a part of the service of Compline since at least the Rule of Saint Benedict, and the antiphon is also of ancient use in the Church.  The positioning has shifted in different breviaries – some before the Prayers (such as the Sarum) and some after the Prayers (such as in modern Prayer Books and the Roman Rite).  Precise translation of the antiphon into English varies among different sources; ours retains the wording of the 1979 Prayer Book.

The addition of three Alleluias during Eastertide is also a pre-Reformation tradition, marking one of the heightened features of praise during that festal season.


The call and response, Benedicamus in Latin, is a common closure for many offices.

Retained from the 1979 Prayer Book, the final benediction said by the officiant is drawn from the Roman Rite.

The almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
bless us and keep us, this night and evermore. Amen.

In the monastic setting where most of the daily office tradition was developed, these prayers would be the worshipers’ last words before going (back) to sleep. The benediction is not a formal blessing in the sense of a priest’s role, and thus is proper for an officiant of any order to say.  It draws from part of the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24) but is made explicitly Trinitarian and occasioned for Compline in the adding of “this night and evermore.”  Although it is a traditional benediction for this office, it is an appropriate final bedtime prayer to use in family settings and other late-evening occasions.

Bedtime Prayers, Old & New

The versicles and responses are taken from Psalms 31:6 and 17:8, and have been part of the Compline tradition for centuries. They set the prayers’ tone with expressions of commendation and trust.  Appealing to God’s completed work of redemption we entrust our spirit, and hide ourselves, in his protective arms “as a hen gathers her chicks” (Matt. 23:37 & Luke 13:34).

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit;
For you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth.
Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of your wings.


The First Collect is a traditional collect for Compline in the Western liturgy. It is a quintessential Compline prayer in Western tradition, imploring the protection of God and his angels against “all snares of the enemy”, dovetailing neatly with the traditional reading from 1 Peter 5.

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Second Collect is the Collect for Aid Against Perils in Evening Prayer.  As its history has alternated its home between Vespers and Compline, it appropriately shows up in both in the present Prayer Book.

Lighten our darkness, we beseech you, O Lord; and by your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Third Collect is an ancient prayer that, throughout the 20th century, has made its way into the Compline services of several Anglican Prayer Books. As the pace of modern life continues to increase, the heart of this prayer grows ever more relevant to the typical worshiper: the “changes and chances of this life” are indeed quite wearying, it is only in the “eternal changeless” of God that we can find protection through both literal night and in the spiritual night of death.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Fourth Collect is also an ancient prayer that has become a standard Compline collect in Anglican Prayer Books.  The wording of the latter half of this prayer was re-written in the 1979 Prayer Book, and is here restored to its original meaning. Returning to the imagery of light and darkness, this prayer brings us to the themes of illumination and cleansing.  The “celestial brightness” of God invokes God’s appearance throughout Ezekiel 1 and similar passages, and we implore our gloriously bright God to sanctify us – to cast out the works of darkness from among us.  This is reflective of both the worshiper’s act of repentance at the end of the day and of the Christian’s final acts of reconciliation before death.

Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, illumine this night with your celestial brightness, and from the children of light banish the deeds of darkness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect for Saturdays is from the Taizé community tradition, adapted in 1979 and retained here. It is very similar to the Collect for the Eve of Worship (in Evening Prayer).  The resurrection of Jesus is likened to light, in continuity with typical Compline imagery, and we look forward to the morning’s time of worship.  The “paschal mystery” is the heart of the weekly rhythm of worship, every Sunday an Easter of sorts, so Saturday night is rightly a time of joyful anticipation of that approaching celebration.

We give you thanks, O God, for revealing your Son Jesus Christ to us by the light of his resurrection: Grant that as we sing your glory at the close of this day, our joy may abound in the morning as we celebrate the Paschal mystery; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Evening Prayer’s Second Prayer for Mission, although relatively new to the Prayer Book tradition, has become a popular favorite, and thus is enjoyed both in Evening Prayer and in Compline.  Its night-time appeals arguably befit Compline better, given its similarities to other historic Compline collects.

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.

Functionally similar to the previous prayer, this last collect more directly points the worshiper to intercession for workers of the nightshift – a reality that has only become more pronounced since its authorship.  The interconnectedness of society mirrors the unity of the Body of Christ, some praying while others sleep, and keeps the worshiper engaged with the larger realities of creation rather than being too focused on the personally immediate and present. Alternatively entitled “for Those Who Work While Others sleep,” this was written for the 1979 Prayer Book by its long-time custodian, the Rev. Dr. Charles M. Guilbert.

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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.

Inauguration Day Prayers

Our Archbishop, Foley Beach, sent out a reminder today that we as Christians are called to pray for our leaders. I would add the clarification that we pray for them whether we like them or not, whether we’re happy they’re in office or unhappy; whether we prefer them, “the other guy”, or none of the above.

Here is what he wrote to us:

Sisters and Brothers in Christ, 

As our nation inaugurates a new President and Vice-President, and begins a new session of Congress, let us speak to God on behalf of our nation. I recommend the following prayers from the Book of Common Prayer 2019 as a start.

#37. For the President and All in Civil Authority, p. 657

O Lord our Governor, whose glory fills all the world: We commend this Nation to your merciful care, that we may be guided by your providence, and dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of this Nation, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them continually mindful of their calling to serve this people in reverent obedience to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

#38. For Congress or A State Legislature, p. 657

O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and gracious, and whose law is truth: So guide and bless our Senators and Representatives assembled in Congress, that they may enact laws pleasing in your sight, to the glory of your Name and the welfare of this people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

#41. For Cities, Towns, and Other Communities, p. 658

Heavenly Father, you sent your Son among us to proclaim the kingdom of God in cities, towns, villages, and lonely places. Behold and visit, we pray, the communities throughout these United States of America. Renew the bonds of charity that uphold our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Deliver us from poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with mercy. And at the last, bring us to your Holy City, the new Jerusalem, where we shall know perfect unity and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ending the Daily Office

Although optional in 1979, the Daily Office in the 2019 Prayer Book ends with a pair of sentences. “Let us bless the Lord. / Thanks be to God.” is a final doxology, our last word of praise offered to God. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ… be with us all evermore” is a final benediction, God’s last word to us. Together, they form a “goodbye” in both directions between the congregation and our Lord, much like the Blessing and Dismissal at the end of the Communion liturgy. The option of Ephesians 3:20-21, however, tips the closing balance in favor of doxology.

Officiant: Let us bless the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.

The dialogue (or versicle and response) was added in the 1979 Prayer Book, drawn from ancient Gelasian and Roman Office liturgies. It functions in the same way as the Dismissal at the end of the Communion service, which was also first introduced to the Prayer Book tradition in 1979. Both were optional in that edition, but now this dialogue has been fully adopted as a standard part of the the Daily Office liturgy.

What follows is “the grace” taken from 2 Corinthians 13:14. This is functionally like a blessing, or a benediction, used to close the Daily Office since 1662, and the Litany since 1559. Like the 1979 Book, however, our Prayer Book offers Romans 15:13 and Ephesians 3:20-21 as alternatives. The first is also a benediction, but not explicitly trinitarian; the latter is a doxology, rather than a benediction.

A de-revision: A Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time,
with one accord to make our common supplications to you;
and you have promised through your well-beloved Son
that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will grant their requests:
Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us;
granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting.

As the name indicates, this prayer’s earliest-known appearance is in the Eastern Orthodoxy Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and Saint Basil, at the end of their Entrance Rites. It first came to Anglican liturgy at the end of Archbishop Cranmer’s Litany of 1544, before the first Prayer Book was compiled. It was removed from the Litany in the American Prayer Books of 1928 and 1979, and the 2019 Prayer Book has followed suit. This prayer was added to the Daily Office in the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637, and then the English Book of 1662, where it has remained all subsequent Prayer Books, albeit rendered as optional starting in 1892.

In 1979 several wording changes were introduced. In part this was to align the text with the primary Scriptural reference (Matthew 18:19-20), as well as to conform more closely to the Eastern liturgy from which Cranmer originally drew this prayer. This revised phrase, “you will be in the midst of them” has been rolled back in our present version: “you will grant their requests.” Although the 1979 revision matches the biblical text, the historic Prayer Book wording matches the liturgical purpose of the prayer in its specific context. At the end of a worship service or liturgy, assurance of God’s answering of prayer is more appropriate than assurance of the presence of the Lord.

This ancient prayer draws together two sayings of Jesus: Matthew 18:19-20 (“where two or three are gathered”) and John 14:13-14 (“if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”). Functionally, this prayer is akin to the shorter Occasional Prayers #98, 99, and 100, though its specific appeal to the prayers of the church gathered makes it particularly appropriate for the public liturgy of the Church. In that light, the rubric rendering it optional in American Prayer Books since 1928 is probably a concession for instances where the Office is said by an individual in private.

To offer God “our common supplications” is described here as a gift of grace – liturgy and worship are not so much the efforts of man as they are the power of God in us. And even the power of prayer itself is based on the promises of Christ. In short, this prayer both humbles us and encourages us, as we rehearse the basic theology of prayer: God commands it, God empowers it, God fulfills it. And even when we get it wrong, we simply hope that God will answer “as may be best for us”, which is spelled out as knowledge of his truth and life everlasting. If we come away from the Daily Office remembering nothing else, that desire for divine knowledge and life will be enough.