What you pray is what you believe: Learning from Tomorrow's Collect
Over the centuries, the Christian church has learnt lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of praying is the law of believing. In other words, what you pray (or sing in worship) is what you believe.
There's a set of short prayers which the Christian church around of the world, across denominations, cultures, languages, and centuries, have traditionally prayed on each Lord's Day of the year (and throughout the following week), called the collects. Each collect is a one sentence prayer, which collects together the prayers of the whole congregation as we come together into the Lord's presence in worship.
(I know some Pentecostals might be tempted to scoff at the idea of a set prayer for a particular day, but the same Holy Spirit who can inspire a prayer spontaneously in a service can also guide and inspire the Church over the centuries in prayer. And length is not necessarily a sign of the Spirit's leading. The very shortness of the collects is one of their great virtues - for they are short enough for everyone to pay careful attention, and so they really can collect up the prayers of the whole congregation.)
who never fails to help and govern those
whom You bring up in Your steadfast fear and love:
May we ever revere and adore Your holy name;
through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one true God,
now and forever.
So, going from the principle of lex ordandi, lex credendi, what does this prayer teach us to believe?
1. The Lord is our true and loving Father.
We pray to the one who brings us up in His steadfast fear and love. Earthly fathers are to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition - the love and fear - of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). So, if the Lord Himself is bringing us up in His steadfast fear and love, then that means He is a faithful and loving Father to us. He does what a true Father is called to do. And He does perfectly what even the best of earthly fathers can only do imperfectly. By bringing us up in His love and fear, the Lord is showing us His great love and fatherly care.
2. Our loving heavenly Father never fails His children.
He 'never fails to help and govern those' whom He brings up in His fear and love. Our heavenly Father isn't going to abandon us to our own devices once we reach a certain age or level of maturity (Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5). We will always be the little children of His love and He will always be there, ready to help and lead us in any and every situation.
3. The correct response to all that our loving heavenly Father has done for us is fear and love - reverence and worship.
Our heavenly Father has done great things for us. Not only does He show us His love now in His help and governance, and by continually bringing us up, but first and foremost, He has brought us into His family as His well beloved children in the Well Beloved Son. To make us His children, He gave His Only-Begotten Son for us that we should live through Him (1 John 4:9). And so our hearts respond in love to the great love which He has shown us in Christ. The more we get to know our heavenly Father and all that He has done for us, the more we will respond to Him and all that He has done for our salvation in holy fear and love.
4. We should pray for God's good gift of perseverance.
We don't take our perseverance in faith for granted, for we know that we are 'prone to wander' and 'prone to leave the God [we] love.' But instead we look with confidence to the one who is able to keep us, the one who holds us in His almighty hand, from whence no one can snatch us away. And trusting in Him, we call out to Him for continued faith, for this gift of perseverance. We don't rely on our love for Him, but on His love for us in Jesus. And so we ask that He would grant us the grace to ever love, revere and worship His holy name.
5. Perseverance in the faith looks like keeping the First Commandment.
Perseverance in the faith looks like revering and adoring the Lord's holy name. Which is to say, loving the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind (Matt. 22:37). Which is to say, that we shall have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). Revering and adoring the Lord's holy name means that 'We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things' (Luther on the 1st Commandment in his Small Catechism). In other words, perseverance in the faith looks like keeping the First Commandment.
6. We pray through the mediation of Christ. And we look for God's answer through the mediation of Christ.
Actually, all the collects teach us this. It's part of the structure of a collect that we explicitly mention that we're praying through the mediation of Christ. Which is a good thing to explicitly mention over and over again, because that reminds us over and over again that all our prayers are prayed through Christ our Mediator and Intercessor, who purifies all our prayers and presents them perfect to the Father.
7. The one true God whom we worship and adore is the Triune God.
Again, something we keep praying, and which keeps on drumming into us the very identity of our one God, who always and ever is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There you go. A collect might only be a sentence. But this sentence is jam-packed full of heavenly truth.