What Is a Collect?

A collect is a prayer that “collects” the prayers of the people in summary fashion, places them in a context appropriate to the seasonal or thematic focus of the day, and offers them to God.

The function of the collect (pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable) is to bring together the prayers of the people, to bring to a close the Entrance to worship, and to proclaim the theme of the day. The worship leader may face the people with outstretched arms, bid them to pray, wait until their prayers surface or allow a time for silent prayer, then pray, bringing the congregation and their prayers before God. The congregation assents with an Amen.

For those who prepare a creative Opening Prayer the following form may be used as a guide:

  1. An address to God.
  2. A reference to some divine attribute or act as the ground of prayer.
  3. (a)A petition related to the day’s theme or the position in the church’s year, (b) often with a clause describing the end or purpose of the petition.
  4. A concluding doxology.

This format is a generalization, and not every classic or modern collect fits it. Many variations exist, and a look at them will reveal the appropriate bounds of the form. For example, the collect for the First Sunday of Advent does not have a section devoted to an attribute of God, but rather implies attributes in the petition itself:
  [1] Almighty God
  [3a] give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;
  [3b] that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
  [4] through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The petition here not only asks for something; it tells part of the story of salvation with its characteristic Advent references to the Incarnation and to the return of Christ, and in so doing reveals the character of God in sending his Son.
Another example, from the Third Sunday of Advent (often called the “Stirrup Prayer” because of its opening words), begins with the petition immediately, which also suggests an attribute of God and then interjects the address to God. The prayer then proceeds to a second, closely related petition:
  [3, 2 implicit] Stir up your power,
  [1] O Lord,
  [3] and with great might come among us;
  [3] and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us;
  [4] through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.