Prayer for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity - 2013

The 1662 and 1928 Book of Common Prayer record the following for this Sunday:

O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is, again, one of my more favorite prayers, and I committed it to memory long, long ago. Its substantive simplicity is its brilliance. It breaks down into two segments, with the second opening out in two parts.

The declaration that God’s providence “ordereth all things” is inclusive of “heaven and earth.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q & A 11) succinctly defines God’s works of providence in this way: “God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.” The Collect goes further in announcing that God’s providence is “never-failing,” it can’t be thwarted by conspiracies, governments, catastrophes, or human schemes.

The first portion of the petition is stated somewhat in the negative. That God, by his never-failing-ordering-all-things-providence would put away from us “all hurtful things.” Here is the prayer of every Christian, especially as they face disease, frailty, combat, business disasters, etc. This part of the petition recognizes that God knows what’s hurtful for us, something that we don’t always comprehend.

The second portion is stated in a more positive way. That this God, by his never-failing-ordering-all-things-providence, would give us “those things which be profitable for us.” Again, this is the prayer of every Christian looking to move into the “happy issue out of all their afflictions” and on into better days and better ways. This part of the prayer also recognizes that God knows what is genuinely profitable for us, which we might not.

In both parts of this petition the supplicant is surrendering to God’s judgment about what is harmful, and what is profitable. This is a good and safe place to be. It seems to me that the Collect is wisely drawing from James 1.2-4, which I will close with: 
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials-NKJV, etc]; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”


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