Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect was appointed for the 2ndSunday in Lent in the Gregorian Sacramentaryand the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It was transferred to the 3rdSunday in Lent in the 1979 BCP and returned to its original position in the 2019 BCP.
It is a very appropriate prayer for the penitential season of Lent. True penitents realize and confess that they have come to the end of their own strength, are found wanting, and as a consequence they call out to God for mercy.
The power of such an approach can be seen in the countless lives that have been restored through AA. Their first three steps to recovery say, “1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
Thus it is not until we realize that we have nowhere else to turn, that we turn in the right direction. The Scripture says that when the Prodigal Son “came to his senses” the returned to his FatherLent is a focused time for us to come to our senses.
Additionally the collect points out that our battles are in two dimensions. We battle outwardly with the flesh but we also battle inwardly with spiritual forces. The collect says that we face “adversities that may happen to the body” as well as “evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul.”
An important part of spiritual maturity is to keep both battles in their proper perspective. If we only battle on the level of the flesh then we can easily become pawns and even casualties in a spiritual battle of which we are unaware. As someone said, “If you don’t recognize the spiritual battle then everything looks like a conspiracy.” Ignorance of the big picture results in ineffective tactics that have dire consequences. St. Paul warned, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
On the other hand if we only consider the spiritual battles then we tend to make excuses for sins of the flesh. Like Flip Wilson, we shift responsibility and say, “the Devil made me do it.”Thus the mature Christian denies (St. Paul says “crucify”) the fleshAND suits up in the whole armor of God to battle against principalities and powers.
All throughout Holy Scripture we are reminded that when we call on the LORD He then comes to our aid because He is faithful to a thousand generations.And so as we pray this collect the following Scripture should resound in our hearts and be a cause for thanksgiving. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”In this way we end the prayer, not in desperation, but in quiet confidence and peace.
A 10thcentury book of prayers and rites used by the Celebrant
AA Big Book 4thEdition, p59
Luke 15:17 NASB
2 Corinthians 11:3 NASB
Apologies. You have to be at least 150 years old to catch that reference.