From Common Prayer Commentaries
Today’s Collect causes us to reflect on the connection between thought and action. We pray for the spirit to think and do what is right in order that we may be able to live according to God’s will. But why do we pray for such a spirit? — Because the Collect reminds us that “we cannot do anything that is good without thee”, echoing the words of our Saviour: “...without me ye can do nothing” (John 15. 5).
We depend upon God’s gracious favour and Holy Spirit to put good desires and thoughts into our hearts and minds, and then we depend upon that same Holy Spirit to give us strength to put those desires and thoughts into action.
God’s Holy Spirit must be active in us each step of the way. In the first instance we simply rely on the goodness of God to bless us with good and rightful desires. In the second instance we must cooperate with God’s Holy Spirit by affirming these good desires and resisting the evil thoughts that come to us. In the third instance we cooperate with God’s Holy Spirit further by acting out those good and rightful thoughts and desires. Each stage is important and necessary if we are going to live according to God’s will. If we (1) deny the godly desires that come to us, (2) refuse to affirm and encourage these desires and allow evil suggestions to overcome them, or (3) don’t attempt to put these desires into action in our lives — then we fail to glorify God.
Let us strive, therefore, to glorify God, not through our efforts alone, but seeking the strength of God’s Holy Spirit. The Ven. W.J. Armitage, one time Rector of St. Paul’s, Canon and Archdeacon of Halifax, Nova Scotia, commented on this Collect:
The Holy Spirit is the author of good thoughts. He alone can help us to fulfil the commandment to love God with all our mind. For he alone can give us the mind which was in Christ Jesus. This prayer seeks his guidance and controlling power over the mental processes.... The Holy Spirit is the great Teacher. It is his office to take the things of Christ, and to bring them home to the minds of men. The believer who looks to the Holy Spirit for light and leading is literally ‘taught of God’.... The whole secret lies in the power of the Holy Spirit, whose gracious assistance we ask. (The Church Year, 1908).
The Epistle continues the theme of the connection of thought and action, showing the judgments that fell upon the Israelites in their disregard of God’s will in both their thought and their action. The Israelites sinned in thought by refusing to encourage godly desires given to them and instead “lusted after evil things.” This sin in thought was followed by sinful deeds of sensual vices. They sinned because they trusted in themselves and not in God.
Let us claim in our life the comfort, strength, and wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit which enables us to reject evil, cling to good, and “live according to his will, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”