This post, in addition to being a part of Rookie Anglican, is part of a series on the Collects of the Christian Year (ACNA), called “Collect Reflections.” If you’re just jumping in, make sure to check out the introductory post, “Announcing Collect Reflections.” All Collect Reflection posts can be found here.
The Third Sunday in Lent
Heavenly Father, you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you: Look upon the heartfelt desires of your humble servants, and stretch forth the strong hand of your Majesty to be our defense against our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
Alright everyone, I’m on the road visiting a good friend of mine (Fr. Peter Smith, rector of Living Faith Anglican in Tempe, AZ, who wrote the Collect Reflection for Ash Wednesday). So, this Collect Reflection is (hopefully) going to be even shorter, even sweeter, and even more to the point than usual!
Heavenly Father, you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you:
The opening of our Collect this week comes straight from St. Augustine’s Confessions, Book One, Chapter 1.
In fact, here’s the entirety of “chapter 1,” which can really stand by itself as a reflection on the relationship between praising and invoking (calling upon) God:
“1. “Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom.” And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.
“Grant me, O Lord, to know and understand whether first to invoke thee or to praise thee; whether first to know thee or call upon thee.
“But who can invoke thee, knowing thee not? For he who knows thee not may invoke thee as another than thou art. It may be that we should invoke thee in order that we may come to know thee. But “how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe without a preacher?” Now, “they shall praise the Lord who seek him,” for “those who seek shall find him,” and, finding him, shall praise him.
“I will seek thee, O Lord, and call upon thee. I call upon thee, O Lord, in my faith which thou hast given me, which thou hast inspired in me through the humanity of thy Son, and through the ministry of thy preacher.”
Can’t really say it any better than St. Augustine did. We were created to delight in praising God. Our prayer life should, therefore, involve a mixture of praise, thanksgiving, and intercession/invocation.
Look upon the heartfelt desires of your humble servants,
God created our hearts, and He knows them even better than we do! It’s therefore pointless to try and hide our heartfelt desires from the Lord, especially when we pray to Him.
One of the great privileges of prayer is that we can be perfectly honest with God about what it is that our hearts desire.
And, when we (frequently) realize that the desires of our hearts are insufficient or amiss, we can ask God to change the desires of our hearts! We can ask Him to shape us, so that we might increasingly hate what He hates and love what He loves.
When the desires of our hearts are sanctified by the person and power of the Holy Spirit, we can pray to God knowing that He delights to grant us our heartfelt desires. God is not a stingy Father. He takes joy in meeting the needs of his children!
and stretch forth the strong hand of your Majesty to be our defense against our enemies;
If you’ve been following along with the Collect Reflections and the Collects of the Christian Year, perhaps you’ve noticed how often the Collects ask for God’s protection.
Has this struck anyone else as strange?
I know that, for me, in my relatively privileged position, it’s easy to forget that, as Fr. Lyle Dorsett, one of my professors at Beeson Divinity School, loved to say: “There’s a war going on!”
Now, if we have physical enemies and/or are in physical danger, these prayers for protection are best taken literally!
However, even if it seems like we don’t have any physical enemies, we still need God’s constant protection from our spiritual enemies, as it were. We need the “strong hand of [God’s] Majesty” to protect us from and/or strengthen us in the midst of temptation and trial.
Also, I might add, even if it doesn’t seem like we have physical enemies, we can pray this prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world who DO have very obvious physical enemies!
As I prepare to go and worship with my brothers and sisters at Living Faith Anglican Church in Tempe, AZ, I’m mindful of just how many of my brothers and sisters around the world either (1) can’t gather together today or (2) can only do so in fear/danger of persecution.
Would you join me in praying for them? That their restless hearts would find rest in God? That God would stretch forth the strong hand of His Majesty to protect them from their enemies?
How’s Lent going for you? Let me know in the comments below!