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 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 Eighth Sunday after Trinity, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Collect, Epistle and Gospel [in the Prayer Book] still follow the old English order of the Sarum Missal and are of ancient origin.
We admit that God’s providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth. Some people may say, why then pray? Why seek to alter what God has wisely ordered? The answer is that the arrangements of God’s providence leave room for prayer and its answer, that we may have the joy of being “fellow-workers with God” (2 Cor. 6:1). In the Collect therefore we pray that God may put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things which be profitable for us.
…We pray, knowing that God’s providence will never fail. Each of us may need something different. What may be profitable for one may be useless to another, yet I think for all of us there are some things which will be profitable and which none of us can do without.
(a) Our Faith. Some people say that if God by His providence orders all things, then it is useless to try. That is foolish. God gave man a free will, so He limited Himself, and cannot force us to do His will. If man makes war, God cannot stop it, but He does bring good out of evil by His providence. Sin is war against God. Our faith in Him leads us to pray that He may give us things profitable for us, that our sin may not prevent Him from giving us these things.
(b) Our Hopes. When faced with difficulties or troubles, people lose not only their faith, but their hope. We hope for things unseen, not the things we can see. God will never let us down even though man may do so, because of His never-failing providence. That does not mean we shall not have to bear our troubles, which may be the Cross the Lord has called us to bear. Count your blessings, then you will bear your Cross cheerfully, knowing your hope is in God, and He will never fail us.
(c) Our Love. If we retain our faith and hope in God, then we are bound to love Him and for His sake we shall love others. Love begets love. The more love we give away, the more we shall receive in return, and so you see how God can give things profitable for us. We must use our free will aright, otherwise hurtful things may be our lot. God helps those who help themselves. Besides all this, we have the Church and Sacraments. They come through God’s never-failing providence, and they are profitable for us’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
Fr Lee Kenyon