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Prayer of humble access

I flew a kite here for the notion of confession following our taking of communion.  It wasn't enthusiastically embraced!

I was reminded on Sunday of how brilliant Thomas Cranmer's 'Prayer of humble access' is.  In the Anglican church, this is what we pray before receiving communion.  Isn't it great?

We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Now if the supper was explained to people 'On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread...'.  And people said this prayer, haven't we been sufficiently prepared?  Then, following my appropriation of Christ's grace, then I formally confess my sins - and let's take some time about it, let's mourn our sin and hate it.  But don't we confess best when humbled by grace?

(Even if you object to this, thought I'd share the prayer - good huh?)


11 thoughts on “Prayer of humble access

  1. mishal montgomery

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your love of the "Prayer of Humble Access". I became an Anglican as a young college student-20 years ago- and I think this prayer had a profound influence on my becoming a liturgical Christian.

    And it's great that in 2008, a young Anglican priest still is moved by its powerful words. (Unfortunately, my American church has taken it out completely, but I'm working to get it back into our worship) God bless you.

  2. glenscriv

    Thanks very much Mishal. I grew up with this prayer. From a very early age I remember being in church and imagining myself 'gathering up the crumbs' under His table. It's a great image of being like the Mark 7 woman from Syro-Phonoecia - knowing we're complete outsiders but drawing near anyway for the Bread of life - knowing His nature is always to have mercy.

    Blessings in Jesus

  3. theologymnast

    Our church plant had its first communion a couple of Sundays ago and we had the prayer of humble access which was great. I hadn't been to a service in quite some time where it had been used - for shame, my old, technically baptistic church used it every communion, but our CofE hadn't used it for some time.

    Frankly, it's good just to hear people round here caring about order and elements of a worship service. Pragmatism/tradition nearly always steps in.

    All that I've really read on this is the covenant-renewal guys, and as Doug Wilson says, if you go to Maths class, expect Maths problems. CR worship is structured around levitical sacrifice and it can't be written off. However, that comes with problems, that they have to overcome... communion is God coming and feeding us, and if we stick it at the end, does it seem like God's grace depends on us scrubbing up first.

    Then again, the sermon is God's word to us. Most (all?) of a worship service is, in fact...

    I quite like the idea of communion during an agape feast every Sunday which has all kinds of practical problems and simply wouldn't work with your suggestion. And there are lots of other practical problems besides.

    Here endeth my ramble.

  4. Basil

    I've been an Episcopalian for over 50 years now, converting when I was 14-15 years old. In August '08, we moved about 25 miles south of St. Louis, MO and have been searching for a church home. Around the St. Louis area, even the churches that have a Rite I service leave out the Prayer of Humble Access. I asked one priest about it and he was pretty flippant in his remarks stating that I should just say it to myself..."they" didn't do "it" in their church. I don't understand, nor can anyone tell why "they" no longer say this beautiful prayer.

    God's peace to you and yours

  5. Glen

    Hi Basil,
    Good to hear from you. Yes it is a beautiful prayer - I think in its Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship setting it is in a funny place. It should probably come earlier in the liturgy but to cut it out altogether is a big big loss!

    All Blessings in Jesus,

  6. Patricia

    Amen; amen! I have printed it and include it in my liturgical prayers whether the celebrant says it or not!

    God's grace and Love to you all....


  7. steven caskey

    I am very low church anglican, United Methodist clergy! I have always used this prayer. My coleagues call it the "worm" prayer and refuse to use it. I am working on a sermon in defense and came across this site. Thanks!
    Blessings, Steve Caskey

  8. Pingback: Favourite BCP prayer « Christ the Truth

  9. Jenny

    I feel being told I wasn't worthy every sunday year after year wasn't so great for me as a young person

  10. Glen

    Hi Jenny, I think it's more important to know you're welcome than to know you're worthy. If you're worthy, then it's because of something in you - something you might lose. If you're welcome in spite of being unworthy, then there's great security. Every Sunday I'm welcome no matter what I've done!

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