What is a Collect???

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You may have noticed that we pray something every Sunday called “The Collect.” What is a collect? Are we collecting something? And what are we collecting anyway?

Well, first off, let’s get the pronunciation right. It’s pronounced 'kä-likt or 'kä-lekt. Think baby colic but with a “t” at the end. This type of prayer “collects” the prayers of the people together and offers them to God. It has a unique format that has been used by the Western church for hundreds of years.

You can break a collect down into five component parts. Sometimes a collect may be missing one or two of the parts. I call these parts the five A’s of a collect: Address, Acknowledge, Ask, Application, Amen.

Address - Who are we praying to? Like sending an email, our prayer needs an address. If you send it to the wrong address, don't expect the right answer.

Acknowledge - What is true about God? Prayer is an act of worship and God is exalted when we declare what is true about him. God's character is the whole reason we are praying to him in the first place.

Ask - What do we want? You are praying, right? Prayer is verbal faith because prayer puts words to what we trust God to provide for us. As long as you have breath you need air. And as long as you have needs, you have reasons to pray.

Application - What are we going to do with what God gives us? This part traditionally begins with the words "in order that." God gives to us and that gift changes us, causing us to act differently. We are blessed to be a blessing. What are we going to do with God's answer to this prayer?

Amen - Why should God listen? It is only through the work of Jesus on the cross that we can come before God with such boldness. That's why collects traditionally end with "through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen" Amen comes from Latin, which got it from Greek, which got it from Aramaic, which got it from Hebrew. It means "so be it" or "this is true."

Here’s the collect we prayed at Pentecost, with each part labeled:

(1) Almighty God, (2) on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: (3) Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, (4) that it may reach to the ends of the earth; (5) through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I have taken to writing down some of my deepest and most frequent prayers in the format of a collect. I would suggest you give it a try. Start with your prayer need and work backward. What about God is true that makes you want to ask him for this need? What are you going to do when God answers this prayer? I think you will find that writing down your prayer will bring a clarity and beauty to your prayer life that you may not have experienced before. 

Peace,

Father Kurt Hein