Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do thee true and laudable service: grant, we beseech thee; that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of 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 Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is most certainly a prayer that assumes that human beings are made in the image of God to be his servants not only in this life but in the age to come. They are creatures who by God’s mercy look forward to a rich, full and everlasting life in the kingdom of God, where their service of the Lord will be richer and fuller and progress from glory to glory. However, in this prayer is also the biblical assumption that the fulness and quality of the life to be enjoyed in the age to come is related to the type of life that is lived in this evil age.
The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is addressed as the “Almighty” (the Sovereign, All-powerful) and as “merciful” (showing pity and love to the undeserving). Then, in bowing before his presence (by the device grammatically of the relative clause) his people remember that their vocation in this world, as Christians in the Household of God, is that they serve God fruitfully even as they daily pray, “Thy will be done”. Also they remember that their right serving of their God and Father is dependent upon his gift to them of grace, mercy, wisdom and strength. The little word “only” emphasises that they are wholly dependent on God’s help to serve him aright.
If the vocation of the creature is to serve the Creator, who is the Father and the Judge, in the name and merits of Christ Jesus, then it is most appropriate for the people of God to ask for spiritual strength to offer this service daily in the right mind and attitude and with appropriate fervour and consecration. “Grant, we beseech thee,” is an emphatic way of showing total dependence and asking for total help with the intention of offering complete service.
The end of man is to enjoy and glorify God for ever. The Gospels and Epistles place before Christian believers an array of promises of eternal life with rewards for those who, in this world and life, faithfully serve the Lord and their fellow men. Implied in the words of petition is a warning that we may fail to attain to the enjoyment of the content of the promises of heavenly bliss.
This prayer is offered not only through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, but specifically through “the merits” of the same Lord, for the attainment of the promises is only possible by what he has done for us and for our salvation’.
Peter Toon, 1939-2009
Fr Lee Kenyon