From God's fullness we have all received, grace upon grace
“Pray the Collects and write your own”

“Pray the Collects and write your own”

Constraints can be a vital source of creativity. Consider the beauty that has emerged within the sonnet form. When we have less to work with, and are less paralysed by choice, we begin to see the world differently. Constraints force us to think and release our imaginations.

In a 2018 interview with Krista Tippett for the On Being podcast, the poet Pádraig Ó Tuama talks about prayer as a form of words and the Collect as a “container for the things that it can be difficult to contain.” The form of the Collect is a way to collect our intentions in prayer and arrange them.

In Collect form we may only ask one thing, and there is a clear progression in five steps: “You name the God that you’re speaking to. And then you say something more, a little bit like some character development. And then you name your request. And then you give a reason for your request, which folds back into the top. And then you finish with a little bird of praise.”

Here for example is the progression of the Collect for All Saints’ Day:

  1. Almighty God,
  2. you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
  3. grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living
  4. that we may come to those inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
  5. through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

This year Advent Sunday is on 27 November. One suggestion for this new church year, is day by day or Sunday by Sunday to pray with the set Collect for a time. The Collects are available via the Oremus Almanac or collected on the Church of England website at (Common Worship) and (BCP).

Then, to sit with your desires and write and pray your own Collect. As Ó Tuama continues, “it makes you ask, what do I want? — one thing. And how do I wrap that into a form that holds it, that reveals something back to me, rather than just a list of demands? … I think, in poetry, form can hold the things in us that feel formless.”


This is one of a series of articles appearing in Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, complementing the material I contributed to the “Explore Prayer” section of the Cathedral website. I hope you find them helpful.

The full On Being interview with Pádraig Ó Tuama is at I commend both On Being and its stable companion Poetry Unbound hosted by Ó Tuama.