Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things be as rightful: that we,
who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may be thee be enabled to live according to thy will;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity from Divine Worship: The Missal
'Can anything be better than to have a "nice disposition"? Not to be sulky, or bad-tempered, or proud, or arrogant: to be biddable, clubbable, imperturbable; to be ready with employers, easy with friends, and affable with those of less degree; and to be all these things not by constant effort but with the ease of a natural manner, just because we really are like that. Surely there are not many of us who would not like to be just that kind of person.
Then why aren't we? Is is that we were not born that way? Or is it that we don't take the trouble to be nice to people? Anyway, we must feel that the desired disposition can be acquired, or we should not pray, "Grant us the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful."
It may be that "disposition" implies something that lies behind actual thoughts. It is the whole set or trend of the mind, and people are prone to display one kind of attitude or another from birth, just as in the horticultural field some beans are by nature tall and some short.
If that is so, then the prayer is that any deficiencies in our natural disposition may not be allowed to affect our actual thoughts, much less our actions. Even if we cannot prevent wrong thoughts arising in our minds, we pray to have the wit and wisdom to turn from them and to give ourselves to the thought of something good and lovely and of present usefulness.
...We may recognise only too well that we ourselves do not naturally display that lightness and cheerfulness of disposition. Even to ourselves we seem much heavier on hand than that implies. We are dull, lethargic, apathetic, naturally disposed to see the dark side and to find something to grumble at. If we ever show any quickness of emotion it is likely to be anger.
Of course we can't change ourselves. We can't jump off our own shadow. But what we cannot do, God can. We need a complete change of nature, and God can give it to us. As St Paul says, we really may become new creatures, a new creation. "We, who cannot do anything that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will'.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964, by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Fr Lee Kenyon
Priest, Husband, Father, Lancastrian, Mancunian