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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

PRAYER / WORSHIP:
Daily Scripture & Prayer Guide

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Day 1, Walking in conversation

Scripture
  • Genesis 11:1–9, The story of Babel and legacy of our diversity.
  • Psalm 34:11–18, “Come... listen.” God’s invitation to conversation.
  • Acts 2:1–12, The outpouring of the Spirit, the gift of understanding.
  • Luke 24:13–25, Conversation with the Risen Jesus on the road.
Meditation

To walk humbly with God means to walk as people speaking with one another and with the Lord, always attentive to what we hear. Conversation has been central to the ecumenical movement, as it opens up spaces for learning from one another, sharing what we have in common, and for differences to be heard and discussed. These conversations from the search for unity are part of our basic call to respond to what God requires of us.

Today’s Genesis reading, and the story of Pentecost, both reflect something of this human action, and its place in God’s liberating of people. It is with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost that understanding across differences is made possible in a new way, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Now we are invited to share the gift of speech and listening and to walk in the Spirit.

The experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is a conversation taking place in a context of travel together, but also of loss and disappointed hope. As churches living with levels of disunity we can recognize ourselves here. Yet it is precisely here that Jesus chooses to join the conversation walking alongside his disciples. It is his desire to be a part of our conversations, and our response of wanting him to stay and speak more with us, that enables a living encounter with the Risen Lord.

This resurrection experience calls us into a deeper unity in Christ. Constant conversation with each other and with Jesus, even in our own disorientation, keeps us walking together towards unity.

Prayer

Jesus Christ, we proclaim with joy our common identity in you, and we thank you for inviting us into a dialogue of love with you. Open our hearts to share more perfectly in your prayer to the Father that we may be one, so that as we journey together we may draw closer to each other. Send your Spirit to empower us to challenge situations where
dignity and compassion are lacking in our societies, nations, and the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Day 2, Walking with the broken body of Christ

Scripture
  • Ezekiel 37:1–14, “Shall these dry bones live?”
  • Psalm 22:1–8, God’s servant, mocked and insulted, cries out to God.
  • Hebrews 13:12–16, The call to go to Jesus “outside the camp.”
  • Luke 22:14–23, Jesus breaks the bread, giving the gift of himself before his suffering.
Meditation

To walk humbly with God means hearing  the call to us to walk out of the places of our own comfort, and accompany the other, especially the suffering other. “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone;” “we are cut off.” These words from Ezekiel give voice to the experience of many people across the globe today.

Christians are called into this way of the cross. The Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear not only the saving reality of Jesus’ suffering, in the place of the margins, but also the need for his disciples to go “outside the camp” to join him there. When we meet those who have been excluded and we recognize the crucified one in their sufferings, the direction we should be going is clear: to be with Christ, to be in solidarity with those on the margins whose wounds he shares.

The story of Christ’s suffering and death  is the story of the last supper and it is celebrated as victory over death in every Eucharist. In this Christian celebration, Christ’s broken body is his risen and glorious body; his body is broken so that we can share his life, and, in him, one body.

As Christians on the way to unity we can often see the Eucharist as a place where the scandal of our disunity is painfully real, knowing that, as yet, we cannot fully share this sacrament as we should. This situation calls us to renewed efforts towards deeper communion with one another.

Prayer

God of compassion, your Son died on the Cross so that by his broken body our divisions might be destroyed. Yet we have crucified him again and again with our disunity. Send us your Spirit to breathe life and healing into our brokenness that we may witness together to the justice and love of Christ. Walk with us towards that day when we can share in the one bread and the one cup at the common table. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Day 3, Walking towards freedom

Scripture
  • Exodus 1:15–22, The Hebrew midwives obey God’s law over the command of Pharaoh.
  • Psalm 17:1–6, The confidant of one prayer open to God’s gaze.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, The glorious freedom of God’s children in Christ.
  • John 4:4–26, Conversation with Jesus leads the Samaritan woman into freer living.
Meditation

Walking humbly with the Lord is always a walk into receiving the freedom he opens up before all people. With this in mind we celebrate the mystery of the struggle for freedom, which takes place even in the places where oppression, prejudice and poverty seem to be impossible burdens. We celebrate the determination for freedom in dignity, social inclusion, and a proper share in all that is good. Such determined journeying towards fuller living presents a gift of Gospel hope to all people, caught up, in our different ways, within the patterns of inequality across the globe.

The step by step journey into freedom from unjust discrimination and practices of injury is brought home to us by the story of Jesus’ meeting the woman at the well of Samaria. Jesus himself engages in conversation with her on the basis both of his need for her practical help (he is thirsty) and in a mutual exploration of the social prejudices which make this help seem problematic. Bit by bit the way of a freer life is opened up before the woman, as the reality of the complexities of her life are seen more clearly in the light of Jesus’ words. In the end these personal insights return the conversation to a place where what divides is transcended. “Worship in spirit and in truth” is what is required and here we learn to be free from all that holds us back from life together, life in its fullness.

To be called into greater freedom in Christ, is a calling to deeper communion. Our freedom in Christ is characterized by that new life in the Spirit which enables us stand together before the glories of God “with unveiled faces.” It is in this glorious light that we learn to see each other more truly as we grow in Christ’s likeness towards the fullness of Christian unity.

Prayer

Liberating God, we thank you for the resilience and hopeful faith of those who struggle for dignity and fullness of life. We know that you raise up those who are cast down, and free those who are bound. May we appreciate what has been given to us, and be strengthened to overcome all within us that enslaves. Send us your Spirit so that the truth shall set us free, so that with voices united we can proclaim your love to the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Day 4, Walking as children of the earth

Scripture
  • Leviticus 25:8–17, The land is for the common good, not personal gain.
  • Psalm 65:5b–13, The fruitful outpouring of God’s grace on the earth.
  • Romans 8:18–25, The longing of all creation for redemption.
  • John 9:1–11, Jesus’ healing, mud, and water bodies.
Meditation

If we are to walk in humility with God we will always need to be aware of ourselves as part of creation and recipients of God’s gifts. There is a growing recognition in today’s world that better understanding of our authentic place in creation must become a priority. All we have is given by God in his creation and it is not ours to do with as we wish.

The Christian story is one of redemption for all creation. The belief that in Jesus, God becomes a human person, in a particular place and time. It is a shared belief in the Incarnation which carries with it a profound recognition of the importance of creation, of bodies, food, earth, water, and all that feeds our life as people on the planet. Jesus is fully part of this world and the dust from the earth, but it is true to this real sense of the created world as integral.

Across the world the earth is often workedby the poorest people, who frequently do not themselves share in the fruitfulness that results. Care of the earth includes basic questions of how human beings are to live within creation, in ways that are more fully human for all. That the earth, its working and ownership, should so often be a source of economic inequalities and degrading work practices is a cause for great concern and action for Christians together. The land and its fruits are not given to be an opportunity for “taking advantage of one another” rather the working of the land is for the benefit of all.

Prayer

God of life, we thank you for the earth, and for those who care for it and bring forth its fruit. May the Spirit, the giver of life, help us to recognize that we are part of creation’s web of relationships. May we learn to cherish the earth and listen to creation’s groaning. May we truly walk together in the steps of Christ, bringing healing to all that wounds this earth, and ensuring a just sharing of the things that it brings forth. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Day 5, Walking as the friends of Jesus

Scripture
  • Song of Solomon 1:5–8, Love and the beloved.
  • Psalm 139:1–6, You have searched me out and known me.
  • 3 John:2–8, Hospitality to friends in Christ.
  • John 15:12–17, I call you friends.
Meditation

To walk humbly with God does not mean walking alone. It means walking with those who are those vital signs of God’s presence among us, our friends. “But I have called you friends” says Jesus. Within the freedom of love, we are able to choose our friends, and to be chosen as a friend. “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Jesus’ friendship with each of us transfigures and transcends our relationships with family and society. It speaks of God’s deep and abiding love for us all.

The Song of Solomon remains the testimony of passion between lovers which transcends the boundaries of society.  What does the Lord require of those called to walk with Jesus and his friends? A call to be friends with the friends of Jesus is another way of understanding the unity of Christians for which we pray this week. Christians around the world are called to be friends with all those who struggle against discrimination and injustice. The walk towards Christian unity requires that we walk humbly with God with, and as, the friends of Jesus.

Prayer

Jesus, from the first moment of our being you offered us your friendship. Your love embraces all peoples. Filled with the confidence and assurance of our dignity in you, may we walk in solidarity towards each other, and embrace each other in the Spirit, as children of God. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Day 6, Walking beyond barriers

Scripture
  • Ruth 4:13–18, The offspring of Ruth and Boaz.
  • Psalm 113, God the helper of the needy.
  • Ephesians 2:13–16, Christ has broken down the dividing wall between us.
  • Matthew 15:21–28, Jesus and the Canaanite woman.
Meditation

To walk humbly with God means walking beyond barriers that divide and damage the children of God. St Paul lived with the devastating divisions in the earliest Christian community between Gentile and Jewish Christians. To this barrier and to every subsequent one, Paul proclaims that Christ “is our peace; ....in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall between us.” Elsewhere he writes, There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27–28)

In Christ, all the barriers of the ancient world, and their modern successors, have been removed because on the Cross, Jesus created in himself a new humanity.

In a world in which religious barriers are often difficult to cross, Christians remind us of the importance of  Interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Matthew’s Gospel tells of the difficult journey for Jesus and his disciples to cross the barriers of religion, culture and gender when he is confronted by a Canaanite woman who pleads with Jesus to cure her daughter. The disciples’ instincts to send her away and Jesus’ own hesitancy are overcome by her faith, and by her need. From hence Jesus and his disciples were able to cross the imposed human barriers and boundaries of the ancient world. The book of Ruth concludes with a list of her offspring with the Israelite Boaz. This ancestry of the hero-King of ancient Israel reflects the fact that God’s willmay be fulfilled when people cross the barriers of religion and culture. The walk with God today requires that we cross the barriers that separate Christians from one another and from people of other faiths. The walk towards Christian unity requires walking humbly with God beyond the barriers that separate us from one another.

Prayer

Father, forgive us for the we continually build which separate us. May your Spirit give us courage to cross these boundaries, and to tear down the walls that disconnect us. Then with Christ, may we step forth into unknown terrain, to carry his message of loving acceptance and unity to all the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Day 7, Walking in solidarity

Scripture
  • Numbers 27:1–11, The right of inheritance to daughters.
  • Psalm 15, Who shall abide in God’s sanctuary?
  • Acts 2: 43–47, The disciples held all things in common.
  • Luke 10:25–37, The Good Samaritan.
Meditation

To walk humbly with God means walking in solidarity with all who struggle for justice and peace. This poses a question for those who pray for the unity of Christians: what is the unity we seek? The Faith and Order Commission, which includes the members of the fellowship of the World Council of Churches as well as the Catholic Church, understands unity as “visible unity in one faith and in one Eucharistic fellowship.” The ecumenical movement is dedicated to overcoming the historic and current barriers that divide Christians. It does so with a vision of visible unity that links the nature and mission of the Church and the overcoming of all that harms the dignity of human beings and keeps us apart. The Church is called to heal and reconcile broken human relationships and to be God’s instrument in the reconciliation of human division and hatred.” (Nature and Mission of the Church)

There are many examples of such acts of healing and reconciliation by the churches. The walk towards Christian unity is inseparable from walking humbly with God in solidarity with any and all in need of justice and kindness.

Prayer

Triune God, in your very life you offer us a unique pattern of interdependence, loving relationships and solidarity. Unite us to live our lives in this way. Teach us to share the hope that we find in people who struggle for life all over the world. May their endurance inspire us to overcome our own divisions, to live in holy agreement with one another, and to walk together in solidarity. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.

Day 8, Walking in celebration

Scripture
  • Habakkuk 3:17–19, In celebrating a time of hardship.
  • Psalm 100, The worship of God through all the earth.
  • Philippians 4:4–9, Rejoice in the Lord always.
  • Luke 1:46–55, The Song of Mary.
Meditation

To walk humbly with God means to walk in celebration. The prophet Habakkuk rejoices in the Lord at a time of  drought and crop failure. Such testimony that God will walk with his people in their difficulties is a celebration of hope. The Blessed Virgin sings her Magnificat as a song of hope even before the birth of her child. And from prison, Paul exhorts the Christian community at Philippi to celebration: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

Our celebration for a unity among Christians occurs in hope and struggle. It is grounded in hope that Christ’s prayer that we may be one will be achieved in God’s time and through God’s means. It is grounded in gratitude that unity is God’s gift, and in recognition of the unity we already experience as the friends of Jesus, expressed in one baptism. It is grounded in the belief that God calls each of us to work for that unity. The walk towards Christian unity requires that we walk humbly with God in celebration, in prayer, and in hope.

Prayer

Gracious God, may your Holy Spirit fill our communities with joy and celebration, so that we can cherish the unity we already share. Rekindle our hope and sustain our resolve, that in Christ’s name we may walk together in love, raising a united voice of praise, and singing together one prayer of worship. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen