The Prayer of Humble Access

I like the Prayer of Humble Access found in the United Methodist Service of Word and Table IV, which is itself based upon earlier Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren rituals. I came to know the prayer through hymnals and worship books that were still in use when I entered the United Methodist Church in 1980. The prayer as written in the UMC Book of Worship, however, retains archaic language. Let me offer you two versions of the prayer with updated language, and then move on to describing how the prayer has evolved.

Two Contemporary Versions

We do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your great love and countless acts of mercy. We are not even worthy to gather up the crumbs under your table, but you are the Lord who always delights in showing mercy. Feed us, then, gracious Lord, with the body and blood of your son Jesus Christ in this holy mystery, that we might live as new creatures, grow into his likeness, and forever live in him, and he in us. Amen.

I have borrowed from the 1993 PC(USA) and 2013 ACNA forms (see below), including direct references to being fed with the body and blood of Christ, but I have retained the concluding Wesleyan themes from the 1964 Methodist version (see below).

I kept the PC(USA) term “feeding” in preference to Cramner’s language of “washing” or “cleansing.” Feeding better describes what God does at the table; washing is an image that better fits the font.

I have also retained the word “righteousness” instead of “goodness” for its Reformation connotations.

In addition, I have returned to the 1549 language of “mystery” (see below). Our denomination’s official statement on the Eucharist is entitled, “This Holy Mystery.” 

I think the phrase “great love and countless acts of mercy” is a suitable substitute for “manifold and great mercies.” It does add “love” as a parallel to “acts of mercy,”  which perhaps goes beyond what Cramner was trying to say. Wesleyans are happy, though, when they get to extol God’s love.

And I think “delights in showing mercy” gets to Cramner’s intent in contemporary language better than “whose property is to have mercy.”  In contempoary speech, “property” is a rather cold, scientific way of desribing the nature of something. I don’t think that fits the context very well.

Or, more conservatively,

We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord, who always delights in showing mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to partake of this sacrament of your son Jesus Christ, that we may walk in newness of life, may grow into his likeness, and may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

This version follows the original model more closely, but borrows the updated 2013 ACNA language (see below), and again retains the concluding petitions from the 1964 Methodist version.

Continue reading The Prayer of Humble Access

Filioque, Pentecost Style

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Acts 2:32-33

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Nicene Creed

A Christian pastor in Caesar's army