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Selections from
The Book of Common Prayer


A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty GOD, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests; Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

 

About this prayer

Archbishop Cranmer found this prayer in the Greek Liturgy, ascribed to St. Chrysostum (d. 407) though actually of the 5th century, when he was searching for suggestions for the English Litany of 1544. The 1662 Book first joined it to the Daily Office, in addition to the Litany; the American 1928 Book removed it from the Litany. The prayer is based upon our Lord's sayings recorded in Matt. xviii.19-20, but in the English version of Cranmer a curious conflation of two distinct sayings of Jesus occurs, resulting in an unfortunate statement of His teaching concerning prayer. In Matt. xviii.19 Jesus says that if two of his disciples agree in whatsoever they ask, it shall be done by the Father; and in verse 20 He goes on to say that where two or three are gathered together in His Name, He is in the midst of them.

The original Greek of the prayer conforms to verse 19 and so fits in with the 'one accord' of the opening address. (Cf. also John xiv.14, 1 John v.14-15; and Acts i.14, ii.1, et cetera, where the early Christians are described as being together 'with one accord.') Such accord in prayer is a gift of grace. It is none other than to pray 'in Christ's Name,' -- to pray as He did, 'Not my will, but Thine be done.' Indeed, the entire prayer is addressed to Christ, although this is obscured by the opening address to 'Almighty God.'

When our wills are, like our Lord's, conformed to God's will, then only do the inner 'desires' of our hearts agree with the outward 'petitions' of our lips and we are truly of 'one accord' with Him and with one another. The word 'expedient' means 'suitable' or 'advantageous,' not, as it commonly means today, 'politic' or 'opportune' (cf. 1 Cor. x.23). Notice also the coupling of 'knowledge of thy truth' and 'life everlasting,' as in the Collect for Peace.

from The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary by Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr. (New York : Oxford University Press, 1950)

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