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Keeping up a healthy life of prayer

The Book of Common Prayer
The Rev. Canon Dr. Andrew R. Wright

We focused last week on mental health, which is incredibly important, especially in these difficult times. Today I want to write a bit about keeping up a healthy life of prayer. Prayer is an amazing resource for us at all times, but especially when life is tough.

Personal Prayer

Sometimes our wonderful prayer book tradition of written prayers can make us second guess our own ability to pray, in our own words. It’s great that we have the Book of Common Prayer to give us some amazing prayers and a tradition of prayer, but your own prayers, your own words, are really at the heart of our life with God. God longs to hear the prayers of our heart.

Of course, we can pray at any time - in any place - because God is always with us, wherever we are, whatever may be happening. And personal prayer can take any form – or even be non-verbal.

The Book of Common Prayer talks about this in the Catechism, asking “What is prayer?” It goes on to say that “Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” (“An Outline of the Faith,” The Book of Common Prayer, p. 856.) Isn’t that a great definition? It reminds me that, first of all, prayer is responding to God and that prayer isn’t just internal, thoughts and reflection, but also action. Prayer without action is really incomplete - we should always consider how we enact our prayers as well as hold them in our hearts. But notice that it also says that prayers can be with or without words. We can certainly use words, and often do, but also can pray through movement, through song, through art, through dance, and in so many other ways.

Even so, it is good to remember, on those days when may not have the words, that the Book of Common Prayer can always support us. You may especially want to take a look at the “Prayers and Thanksgiving” section on pages 810-841 of the prayer book.

However we pray, it’s important to attend to the range of ways that we are invited to respond to God in prayer. One way to remember a “balanced diet” of prayer is the acronym ACTS, which stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.

Adoration is how we show our love to God – to adore God just for who God is, rather than for what God has done or promised. When we use that word in our daily life, saying we adore someone or something, it really is love language that we’re using. This type of prayer is about how we love God. This topic is related to praise as well and our instinct to offer praise to God, as part of that.

Confession is, of course, when we account for the disconnection between us and God, the broken places in our relationship, and seek God’s forgiveness to make us whole. We long to restore our relationships with God and one another and Confession is how we do that in prayer.

Thanksgiving is familiar to us. We offer thanks for what God has done in our lives or in the lives of those we love. This area is focused more on God’s action and work in our lives.

Supplication is probably the most common type of prayer we use. Supplication is asking God to act, to help. We ask on behalf of others (called intercession) for healing, for help, for strength, whatever it may be. We also ask for our own needs (called petition), for however we need God to act in our life today. We are sometimes reluctant to pray as much about our own needs as those of others, but it’s important that we lift our own needs to God as well.

We don’t do this to update God. In fact, God already knows what we need and what others need. None of this is news to God. We ask for our needs in prayer because doing so changes us. It changes how we look for God in our life and it opens us up to receive what God is already offering to us.


A more formal type of prayer in our written liturgies is the Collect. We use Collects in our liturgy all the time. Sometimes when I use that word, people think I’m talking about the money offering or taking up a collection. In fact, the Collects as a prayer form are prayers said on behalf of the whole community – that is, everyone’s prayers are ‘collected’ together into one prayer said for all.

In the first part of the Eucharist, we have the Collect for Purity near the beginning of the service. Some churches have taken to saying this together, but it is traditionally said by one on behalf of all. We’ll look at this Collect in just a second.

We also have a Collect of the Day, which changes every Sunday or feast day, a prayer written only for that day, used at Morning or Evening Prayer or Eucharist. Collects are provided in both traditional and contemporary forms. There is also a Collect that follows the Prayers of the People in the Eucharist. We use Collects all the time.

In fact, anyone can write a collect. Collects are more structured than our personal prayers, of course, but it may help our own prayers to think through the parts of a collect. And, a collect, once written, can be used by anyone, really – which may not be true of our informal personal prayers.

In the Book of Common Prayer, Collects follow the structure or pattern of Address, Description, Petition, Doxology. Let’s look at these parts.

Address – Naming God, to whom the Collect is addressed. This could be as simple as “O God” - which it often is.

Description – The next phrase identifies some aspect of God, describing God’s character or actions

Petition – The heart of the Collect asks God for what we need, usually related to the description section above. Sometimes this part includes a clause that says what we hope will happen – often starting with the phrase “so that”

Doxological Ending – we end with either a statement of praise about God or some sort of description of how we are praying - through Christ or through the Trinity, usually.

Example 1: Collect for Purity

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

“Collect for Purity,” The Book of Common Prayer, p. 323 (also in traditional language on 355)

Let’s break it down:

Address: “Almighty God,”

Description: “unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid:”

Petition: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name;”

Doxological Ending: “through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Example 2: Collect for Fourth Sunday of Easter (May 3, 2020 – next Sunday)

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter,” The Book of Common Prayer, p. 225 (also in traditional language on p. 173)

Let’s break it down:

Address: “O God,”

Description: “whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people;”

Petition: “Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads;”

Doxological Ending: “who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”


Write your own Collects

Adapted from materials prepared by Deacon Tracie Middleton, Diocese of Fort Worth.

You can try your own hand at it! Try writing a collect in response to something you notice during your day, something that you want to commit in prayer that day.


Use whatever form you wish to address God


you are ________       or         who is/does ___________ :
Describe who you know God to be – attributes of character or past actions


We ask ____________ ,
Keeping in mind who God is, make your request in line with that knowledge

(optional: so that ____________ ;
What for? What are you hoping will result?)

Doxological ending

through ___________
Part of our confidence in approaching God comes from remembering that Jesus connects us. How do you want to conclude your prayer?


Bishop Hughes wants you to write a prayer!

Whether it’s in a Collect form or some other form – it really can be in any form you want to use – we’d like to hear and share the prayers that you are creating. You may have just the prayer that others in our diocese need to hear.

Please send to me by email:

I continue in prayer for you all and give thanks to God for all you do. I wish you God’s blessings as you go through the rest of your week.

Canon Wright