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Ever wonder why we Lutherans use the form of worship we do?
In this series we examine the depth and meaning of the various elements of our Lutheran worship service.

This quiz is about the Collect (pronounced “KAHL-ekt”). All of you probably recognize the Collect as a short prayer that comes after the Salutation and before the Epistle lesson in the Morning Service and the Communion Service. Perhaps you’ve even realized that the Collect usually focuses on the thoughts of the Epistle or Gospel lesson appointed for that day (or sometimes for the season in general). That’s good, but now for the quiz: How many parts are there to the Collect, and what are those parts?

Don’t feel bad if you’re stumped. It’s sort of a trick question, anyway, because not all Collects fit the outline as detailed below. Besides that, we sometimes do not do a very good job of teaching the lay members of our churches the nuances of specific aspects of our liturgy. However, it’s interesting and—more importantly— edifying to actually understand those “fine points,” because that understanding enhances our appreciation of the blessings God gives us through our liturgy.

Here’s the answer to the quiz. In general, there are five specific parts to a Collect, although part two (the acknowledgement ) or part four (the aspiration ) are sometimes not included. Since this is the Epiphany season, let’s use the Collect for the Second Sunday after Epiphany from TLH (shown in bold print and a different typestyle below) as examples of the five parts. Please note that the examples below are from that particular Collect, and the comments about each part pertain to this one Collect. Every Collect is unique in its content, even though most of them conform to a specified format.

Part One The invocation or address : this part indicates the person of the Trinity being addressed: usually God the Father , sometimes God the Son . “Almighty and everlasting God,” This Collect is addressed to God the Father. When the Collect is addressed to God the Son, it typically uses the form of “O Lord.” However, please note: there are frequent exceptions to this convention.

Part Two The acknowledgement : this is a description of a specific divine attribute or activity that relates to the petition. “. . . who dost govern all things in heaven and earth,” Here we recognize that God is in control of all things.

Part Three The petition : This is what we are praying for. It is to be for one thing and should be short and direct. “. . . mercifully hear the supplications of Thy people”

Part Four The aspiration : This states the desired result of the petition. Because God controls all things (Part Two), and because we are asking that He would attend to our prayer (Part Three), we now state what result we wish to have as a consequence of our petition. “and grant us Thy peace all the days of our life;” The acknowledgement , the petition , and the aspiration form a natural and logical sequence.

Part Five The ending : When the Collect is offered to God the Father, the ending is usually “through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.” For the rare Collects that are offered to God the Son, the ending usually eliminates “through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord,” and begins with “who livest. . . .” Note that in either ending, we are praying to the only true God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The Collect: a “short and sweet” prayer that directs our thoughts to what is to come in the rest of the worship service. God be praised for the blessings of our liturgy!

Craig Owings is a retired teacher and serves as assistant editor of the Lutheran Spokesman. He lives in Cape Coral, Florida