‘Because we all ask’: write a collect

Prayer’, in English, comes from French, ‘prier’ — ‘to ask.’ … [I]f it’s understood that prayer is only held by those who have a devotion to a religious understanding, we have limited prayer … because we all ask and we all come in contact with deep desire, and that, in itself, is an experience of prayer

Pádraig Ó Tuama, interviewed by Krista Tippett for On Being

We can’t gather at Kelston Barn for a Quiet Day today as we’d planned. Instead I’d like to share here one of the activities I was going to offer as a way into silence.

Inspired by both the Pádraig Ó Tuama interview quoted above and Seeding the Spirit: the Appleseed Workbook by Quakers Chris Cook and Brenda Heales (published by Woodbrooke in 2001), the activity is to write a collect.

In the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions, a collect is a short prayer asking for one thing. Traditionally there are five parts to a collect:

  1. Addressing God
  2. Describing a divine attribute
  3. Asking for one thing
  4. Describing the desired result or purpose of the request and
  5. Concluding in the name of Jesus.

To write your own collect:

  1. Begin by considering your needs and deep desires. Allow one to take shape: what are you asking for?
  2. How do you name who/what you are addressing your prayer to?
  3. What action or characteristic of the One you are addressing seems relevant?
  4. What’s the reason for your request? What change would come from your request being granted?
  5. Do you have an invocation of power or expression of praise to conclude with?
  6. Assemble the collect, starting with naming and describing to whom/what the prayer is addressed, then proceeding with your request and the desired outcome, and finally your conclusion.

Take your time over this. There’s no rush, and no-one assessing or judging your creation. It’s about the process, not the end product.

I find the exercise of articulating just one request slows me down, bringing clarity. Then offering my request up in the form of a prayer can bring a sense of peace.

Here are some examples of collects, both traditional and contemporary (click on a square to enlarge):

One comment

  1. Oh! I always thought the “Collect” was the bit in the service when they ask for donations. Monumental ignorance.

    Sorry we’re having to do it at home, but this looks a great exercise.


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