The Prayer for the Church and the General Confession and Absolution are parts of the Offertory. In the prayer for “the whole state of Christ’s Church” we pray for the well-being of the Church, which is offering herself to God. In the confession we pray for the purification of the Church so that our offering may be worthy.
Prayer for the Church
The “holy Apostle” spoken of is St. Paul. The first sentence refers to (1 Timothy 2:1). The first paragraph ends with a prayer for unity, which should be taken to heart by all who participate in the sacrament. This was Jesus’ own prayer for the Church in St. John 17.
The prayer for rulers spells out what the Church wants from government, based on the Bible’s teachings (Rom. 13:1-7). “To the maintenance of thy true religion and virtue” does mean it is the government’s responsibility to establish religion. The point is that when the government does its God-given job it provides a setting in which true religion will flourish on its own.
The prayer for “Bishops and other Ministers” covers all who minister in the name of Christ. And it makes the point that Christianity is taught by example of life as well as verbal instruction The “lively” or living Word comes from Hebrews 4:12. The ministry, like the Holy Eucharist, consists of Word and Sacrament.
A meek heart (paragraph 4) is not a timid heart-the implication in modern English. The meek person “hears the word of God and does it” (Luke 11:28, see James 1:21). For “revere nee” see Hebrews 12:28.
Invitation to Confession and General Confession
The biblical basis for a confession of sin in the context of Communion is 1 Corinthians 11:1 7-34. St. Paul says that unworthy reception of the Blessed Sacrament can cause harm. Therefore he writes, “let a man examine himself and so let him eat of that bread or drink of that cup.” The requirement that we be in love and charity with our neighbors comes from St. Matthew 5:23-24, where Jesus mandates that we be reconciled with our brother before we offer our gift on the Altar. These requirements are set forth in the longer exhortation (BCP 84) and are stressed in the Offices of Instruction (BCP 292).
The familiar routine of general confession should not keep us from practicing specific confession. Specific confession means that we not only admit we have sinned in thought, word and deed; it means we also confess the specific thoughts, words and deeds. Part of our preparation for worship is self-examination, which should bring to mind the specific sins for which we will offer this prayer. It is highly profitable to augment general confession with the regular practice of making a specific confession to a priest.