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‘Make thy servant to rejoice in thy strength’

06 February 2015

On the 63rd anniversary of the Queen's Accession, as every day, we should pray for her, writes Ben Stephens


I WONDER how many clergy of the Church of England, and others ministering in the Queen's realms and territories, will have turned to the back of the Prayer Book this morning for the Forms of Prayer with Thanksgiving to Almighty God, laid down "for use in all Churches and Chapels within this Realm, every Year, upon the Anniversary of the day of the Accession of the Reigning Sovereign".

The service takes the form of the Prayer Book office, with an additional collect, special prayers, and amendments to the Suffrages next after the Creed, as well as a proper epistle and Gospel for holy communion.

Prayer for the Queen is not restricted to one day a year. Daily intercession for the Sovereign is meant to be part of the regular prayer life of every place of worship in the Church of England; and other Churches have also made it part of theirs.

It used to be said that the late Princess Margaret, when she attended a church service in this country or in one of the lands under the Crown, would always challenge the presiding minister afterwards if her sister had not been prayed for by name.

The Queen has reigned for 63 years without need of management reports or five-year plans. She has led by service - specifically, Christian service.

At the age of 88, she fulfils a round of public and private duties that might exhaust a younger person; and her annual Christmas messages underline ever more explicitly the part that her faith plays in her life.

In 2014, she reflected on the theme of the anniversary of the First World War, saying that "the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life."

The first line of a hymn by Robert Bridges, written in Queen Victoria's reign as a jingoistic affirmation of a Christian kingdom rendering thanks for a God-given empire, still stands: "The Queen, O God, her heart to thee upraiseth."

With her heart upraised to God, the Queen has especially modelled Christian forgiveness. Just as other families were scarred by acts of violence during the Troubles, the Royal Family was scarred by the murder and maiming by the IRA of members of the Mountbatten family in August 1979. Nevertheless, in June 2012, the Queen, playing her part in the peace process, shook hands with the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

When the Irish President made a state visit to Britain last year, the Queen welcomed Mr McGuinness to her table at Windsor - even though there were commentators for whom Mountbatten's memory stalked through St George's Hall like Banquo's ghost.

"Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith," the Queen reminded the nation and Commonwealth at Christmas in 2011. "It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships, and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love."

In her first Christmas message, as Coronation Day approached, the young Queen asked her subjects "to pray for me on that day - to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life".

It is our Christian duty to remember before God those who have asked for our prayers. It is our duty to pray for the Queen.

O Lord, save the Queen;
Who putteth her trust in thee.

Dr Ben Stephens is a freelance writer and theologian.


ALMIGHTY God, who rulest over all the kingdoms of the world, and dost order them according to thy good pleasure: We yield thee unfeigned thanks, for that thou wast pleased, as on this day, to set thy Servant our Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH, upon the Throne of this Realm. Let thy wisdom be her guide, and let thine arm strengthen her; let truth and justice, holiness and righteousness, peace and charity, abound in her days; direct all her counsels and endeavours to thy glory, and the welfare of her subjects; give us grace to obey her cheerfully for conscience sake, and let her always possess the hearts of her people; let her reign be long and prosperous, and crown her with everlasting life in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer

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