Every Sunday, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church begins with “The Collect for Purity,” – which means a prayer that “collects together” certain themes for reflection by the gathered community:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer, which Thomas Cranmer prepared for the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, acknowledges the anxiety and stress of being human. We often enter the liturgy preoccupied with the weight of our own concerns and with the unique struggles of others we care about. We may be thinking about the challenges of work in the coming week, a relationship that has been strained, or we worry about our health or feel anxious about a family member. God knows. All our desires are known. No secrets are hid.
In this collect we ask God to receive us as we are and grant us perspective to see our lives unfolding against the background of a larger design. The Creator of all life and well-being needs some space if we are to lead healthy and authentic lives. This prayer is our way of showing up, as we are, not as we think we should be—a small but essential requirement.