The Properties of God – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

2 Peter 3:11-18
Mark 12:13-17

The other evening, I engaged in a discussion with a friend about the Prayer of Humble Access. This prayer, recited just before communion in the Rite I liturgy; of the Prayer Book, and is known for its poetic, though somewhat outdated, language. I pointed out to my friend that is a version of the prayer, in contemporary language, which begins: “We do not presume to come to this your table, O Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table; but you are the same Lord whose character is always to have mercy.” Opinions on this prayer vary; some may find its tone overly submissive, while others, like myself, prefer to focus on the aspects of God’s grace.

My friend observed that, for him, the modern language didn’t capture the depth he found in the more traditional language, especially highlighting the phrase: “But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.” He argued that “characteristic” doesn’t convey the same depth as “property.” The term property refers to a quality or feature uniquely belonging to an individual or thing. Being a science enthusiast, he likened it to a “physical property of matter,” explaining that such a property is an attribute observable and measurable without altering the substance’s chemical identity. Properties observable only through chemical changes are chemical properties, whereas physical properties are apparent without change or during physical alterations. Examples include changing states of matter or altering matter’s shape through actions like folding or cutting. Physical properties are detectable through our senses, making them crucial for describing matter.[i] Applying this analogy to the Prayer of Humble Access, we recognize that mercy is an unchanging attribute of God amidst a constantly changing and evolving world. Read More