This is one of my favorite Collects. Bishop Eric Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin does a great job highlighting why this is such a truly helpful and important prayer. Thanks again to Fr. Dale at Soundings for making these reflections available to a wider audience.
P.S. I was not online much last weekend, and so I never posted Bp. Menees’ reflection on the Collect for the 4th Sunday in Lent. You can find that here.
On this, the last Sunday in Lent, the collect is a beautiful prayer that asks God to work in us to transform our character.
O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
First, this collect acknowledges that we really have no power within ourselves, but that God, who is “Almighty,” has the ability to “order” our “unruly wills and affections.” Isn’t it amazing that when we try by the power of our own might to change habits and character flaws, we fall short? Well, let me speak for myself: I find it impossible to change my habits and character flaws! However, I am not the same man today as I was three, or ten, or twenty years ago, because of the power of the Holy Spirit working within me. While not completely ordered, to be sure, God is transforming my will and affections, and I thank him for that!
Secondly, this collect asks God to change us to love what he commands and desire what he promises. When we can align our hearts and minds to that of God, we find ourselves truly blessed. King David speaks of this often in the psalms…
“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
I often experience the blessing that David speaks of because I truly desire to do God’s will. The issue for me isn’t in loving his commands or desiring his promises. Rather, it is in acting on that love and desire. The words of St. Paul in his epistle to the Church in Rome ring so true for me and, I suspect, for most of you as well: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) This collect asks God, in his mercy, not only to help us love and desire these things but to do them!
Lastly, this collect recognizes that we need God to work this way in our lives if we are going to be able to adapt and excel in a dynamic world that is constantly changing. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, watching the world change at a pace that is much faster than our own. But, by God’s grace, we are able to “roll with the punches.” I think the key is to keep our eyes on God – the one who is unchangeable, all powerful, all knowing, and all loving! And to that I say Amen!