At the end of Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer there are five further prayers, of which the third is for the clergy and the congregations they serve:
Almighty and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels: Send down upon our Bishops and Curates, and all congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is an appropriate prayer for a diocese, a province and for the global Anglican Communion of Churches, especially at this time of crisis and friction. Let us take it apart in order to put it back together and then to use it with understanding and fervor.
In the short section between the colon, we address the God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we recall that he is both Almighty and Everlasting. Further, in the words of Psalm 136:4, we recall that he is the One “who alone does great wonders.” The “marvels/wonders” may refer to God’s supernatural intervention on behalf of Israel and at Pentecost to empower the new Church. Or they may refer to the continual and continuing wonders of grace that keep the Church in business through space and time and through many dangers on many occasions. [In this regard the churches of the Global Anglican Communion can surely recall with thanksgiving many marvels of divine grace in the planting and expansion of the Church of Jesus throughout the world!]
Following the colon comes the petition to the God of wonders who is almighty! This is for the descent from the Father through the Son of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ. The fervent request is that the Spirit, who comes bearing the character and gifts of Jesus Christ, and who therefore brings health and salvation, settle upon and indwell not only the Bishops and the local Pastors (curate, one who cure of souls), but also the congregations for which they have charge. But there is more to the petition. The Father is also asked to cause the continual dew of his blessing to settle upon them all. Normally the dew descends for the morning only, but the divine dew requested is for the whole day and night. [Again, thinking of the Global Anglican Communion, how much needed right now is “the healthful Spirit of thy grace” and “the continual dew of thy blessing” to bring cleansing, healing and mission.]
No prayer, even from the saintliest or worthiest of us, will ascend to the Father by its own power or sincerity. No prayer, even if uttered in unison by the 900 or so Bishops of the Anglican Family, will be heard in heaven simply because of the numbers and prestige of those from whom it comes. Only what is asked in the Name of Jesus, the only Advocate and Mediator, will be heard and received by the Father almighty. In this spirit is the ending of the prayer.
Here is a contemporary form of the same basic prayer for those who feel only able to pray addressing God as “You.”
Almighty and everlasting God, you who alone do great wonders: Send down upon our Bishops and Clergy, and upon all Dioceses and Parishes under their pastoral care, the Holy Spirit who brings grace and salvation; and, further, that they all may truly please you, pour upon them continual spiritual dew of your blessing. Grant all this, O Lord, for the honor and sake of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.
May we see in our midst the effects of the descent of the Spirit of the Lord and of the presence of the continual spiritual dew from heaven.
www.pbsusa.org firstname.lastname@example.org March 5, 2008