I love the Collects in the Office. Those short little prayers at the conclusion of the Hours seem to sum up very beautifully what we ourselves can sometimes have difficulty putting into words. It is these little prayers which often remain with me long after the Hours are finished for the day. This is particularly the case with the Collects on Sundays, which are repeated throughout the week unless a feast takes precedence, with its own Collect.
The Collect for this first Sunday of Advent is, I found, particularly beautiful and expressive –
Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness
and put upon us the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life..
that in the last day when He shall come again..
we may rise to the life immortal
Often, I find myself echoing the sentiments of these Collects – and other short little prayers – at numerous points throughout the day. When I post a short prayer on social media, it is usually because what it tries to express is in my heart already, being later vocalised in the words on the screen. But those words don’t remain on the screen – I carry them with me all the day long.
Short little prayers are incredibly useful, I find. Repeated over and over in our hearts, they take on an efficacy and seem to build within us. And so in this sense, an interior prayer can find itself becoming much, much more; it can become a movement of the heart and the will which impels us toward some kind of action.
Such an action might be a work of mercy, whether spiritual or corporal or a combination of both, or it might be a change of will and intention of some kind. As an example of this, we may find ourselves praying over and over about some situation affecting us or someone else – the impetus and the power of continued prayer obtains a grace which facilitates and enables something to happen, whether within us or around us, and which results in change of some sort. I see this happening over and over.
And I think this is one reason why perseverance in prayer is so crucial. The very persistence of it moves the Heart of the Lord – in fact, does He not tell us as much in the Gospel?
This persistence does something else, too. It begins to change us from within. It’s a bit like a gentle drip of water falling constantly upon the hard rock beneath – we wonder how can the softness of that water change the solid rock. And yet it does. The very constancy wears down that rock, opening up new paths. So it is with grace – prayer obtains it in one way or another, such that new channels of grace are created and pour into our hearts and the hearts of others.
And all this achieved, by the grace of God, through the prayer of one who prays with confidence and perseverance.