The Church of England - - SUNDAY - By the Rev Dr Liz Hoare

Pre­vent us, O Lord, in all our do­ings with thy most gra­cious favour, and fur­ther us with thy con­tin­ual help; that in all our works, be­gun, con­tin­ued and ended in thee, we may glo­rify thy holy name, and fi­nally by thy mercy ob­tain ev­er­last­ing life, through Je­sus Christ our Lord Amen.

As a newly or­dained cu­rate with an evan­gel­i­cal back­ground firmly grounded in ex­tem­pore prayer, I lis­tened with cu­rios­ity to older priests end­ing meet­ings with a rapidly re­cited prayer ob­vi­ously deeply fa­mil­iar to them. Per­haps my own fa­mil­iar­ity with the BCP was lack­ing but it was a long time be­fore I dis­cov­ered where th­ese prayers came from. It has to be said that it would have helped if those us­ing th­ese prayers had spo­ken more slowly but I quickly be­came cap­ti­vated by the phrase ‘in all our works be­gun, con­tin­ued and ended in thee’ and be­gan to use it in my own prayers.

The prayer for this week is one of a num­ber pro­vided by Cran­mer for oc­ca­sions when there was no com­mu­nion and only the first part of the ser­vice was used up to and in­clud­ing the of­fer­tory. It is one of those 16th cen­tury prayers where the mean­ing of a word has changed sig­nif­i­cantly and ‘pre­vent’ needs ex­plain­ing or chang­ing for those who think God might be be­ing asked to put a block­ade in our path to right­eous­ness.

Pe­ti­tion­ing him to go be­fore us is a very dif­fer­ent mat­ter and re­minds us that Je­sus him­self promised his dis­ci­ples that he has gone on ahead to help us face the fi­nal and great­est hur­dle of all (Jn 14:2) Even bet­ter than this he is at the same time along­side us to help us with his con­tin­ual help.

An­other prayer, St Pa­trick’s Breast­plate, de­scribes this all-en­com­pass­ing na­ture of God’s em­brace in po­etic form: ‘Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ be­hind me, Christ be­fore me, Christ be­side me’ and so on.

The phrase that struck such a chord with me is redo­lent of the com­mu­nion ser­vice, which looks back with sor­row and thank­ful­ness to the cross, for­wards to the heav­enly ban­quet when God’s king­dom will come in all its ful­ness and strength­ens us with his grace to live in the present moment. The cross is all-en­com­pass­ing and we are cov­ered by God’s for­giv­ing love shown there. He beck­ons us for­ward, con­scious of his daily pres­ence so that we are en­abled to see ev­ery­thing in the light of his sav­ing grace. We dare not there­fore be­gin any project off our own bat, try to get through the day in our own strength or reach the end of a task tri­umph­ing in our own achieve­ments. We have not been left alone to man­age as best we can or to pass some kind of ini­tia­tive test. The aim of all we are and do is to glo­rify God’s holy name. If we need any re­minder of our de­pen­dency the fi­nal words of the prayer re­mind us of the prom­ise of eter­nal life which can only be re­ceived through his mercy.

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