Early in the prayer, we are reminded that what we are coming to is a meal. We are invited as guests to a table where God is the generous host, not an altar where we make an offering to appease God’s wrath. The rubric refers to the piece of furniture as ”˜the Lord’s Table’ or, in earlier versions, ”˜Gods borde’. We shall explore below what it is that we receive at this meal.
This prayer creates in us an attitude of humility, helplessness, and dependency on God. We do not deserve to be here. We have no suitable garment of our own to wear to the feast. The contrast is repeatedly drawn between what we do not have and what God does, between what we are not and what God is: ”˜not”¦ trusting in our”¦ but in thy”¦ We are not”¦ But thou art”¦’ Cranmer alludes to our Lord’s encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman, who says, “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7.28). This allusion is double-edged, for it expresses both great humility and great faith, as seen by our Lord’s commendation of the woman in the gospel accounts.
The Prayer of Humble Access has the same dynamic. It does not leave us in a state of hopelessness and despair. Although ”˜we do not presume to come”¦ trusting in our own righteousness’, God’s many, varied (”˜manifold’) and great mercies combined with his unchanging essence (”˜the same Lord’) mean that we do presume to come. Praying this prayer is an enactment of the gospel of God’s grace.