Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep us both inwardly in our bodies, and outwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Collect for today is a beautiful, ancient prayer for God’s protection. It encourages us to think of the purpose, reason, and effect of the Father’s loving care.
The purpose is our complete salvation; and that salvation includes, somewhat unexpectedly, both body and soul. We ought not, in fact, to be surprised at this, for every time we kneel at the altar rail to receive our communion we hear the words: “Preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life”. The body as well as the soul is to have a part in the glorious world of the life to come.
The reason why we pray for God’s protection is that we recognise our own extreme helplessness. “We have no power of ourselves to help ourselves”. We are like the people lying in bed after a bad attack of the flu, capable neither of summoning up sufficient initiative to bestir themselves, nor of persisting in any continuous effort once they have been induced to start it... The theological explanation of this incapacity is that it is the result of original sin. A poison has entered into our human constitution which, like the venom injected by some species of spiders into their prey, has affected our nerve centres and paralysed our springs of action... So we ask God to keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.
The effect of our prayer then is to be even wider than we thought. There are not only two different elements in human nature but also two different kinds of evil. There are the adversities that may happen to the body as well as the evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul. The collect is strongly realist and recognises our desire for protection from bodily dangers as well as from moral ills.
We can thoroughly appreciate this consideration in times when we run daily dangers on the roads and when we are always on the brink of a third a still more deadly global war. More important is the evil that can happen to the soul. How do evil thoughts come in - from the up-rush of the unconscious or from the suggestions of our environment? Only the gift of grace can protect us against the dangers of an unstable attention or a too vivid imagination. But thanks be to God who is able to save us both body and soul to everlasting life’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Fr Lee Kenyon