WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
JANUARY 18–25, 2016
PRAYER / WORSHIP:
Daily Scripture & Prayer Guide
Day 1, Let the stone be rolled away
- Ezekiel 37:12-14, I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.
- Psalm 71:18b-23, Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens.
- Romans 8:15-21, We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
- Matthew 28:1-10, He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.
In our world today there is much grief and pain; wounds inflicted which are difficult to forgive. All of this is like the large stone which covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. Wounds such as these imprison us in a spiritual grave.
But if, in our suffering, our pain is united to his pain, then the story does not end here, locked in our graves. The earthquake of the Lord’s resurrection is the earth-shaking event that opens our graves and frees us from the pain and bitterness that hold us in isolation from one another. This is the mighty act of the Lord: his love, which shakes the earth, which rolls away the stones, which frees us, and calls us out into the morning of a new day. Here, at this new dawn we are re-united with our brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned and hurting too. And like Mary Magdalene we must “go quickly” from this great moment of joy to tell others what the Lord has done.
Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.
Day 2, Called to be Messengers of Joy
- Isaiah 61:1-4, The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
- Psalm 133, How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
- Philippians 2:1-5, Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
- John 15:9-12, I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.” We long for Good News to mend our broken hearts and to release us from all that binds us and makes us captive.
When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigor to proclaim the joy that comes from Jesus. Nevertheless, even when we feel unable to give anything to anyone, by bearing witness to the little that we have, Jesus multiplies it in us and in the people around us.
In the Gospel Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” and “love one another as I have loved you.” It is in this way that we discover his joy in us, so that our joy may be complete. This mutual love and mutual joy is at the heart of our prayer for unity. As the psalmist says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfil the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Day 3, The Witness of Fellowship
- Jeremiah 31:10-13, They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion.
- Psalm 122, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.
- 1 John 4:16b-21, Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars.
- John 17:20-23, That they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me.
Division among Christians is an obstacle to evangelization. The world cannot believe that we are Jesus’ disciples while our love for one other is incomplete. We feel the pain of this division when we cannot receive together the body and blood of Christ at the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity.
The source of our joy is our common life in Christ. To live our life of fellowship every day is to welcome, love, serve, pray and witness with Christians from diverse traditions. It is the pearl of great value given to us by the Holy Spirit.
The night before his death, Jesus prayed for unity and love among us. Today we raise our hands and pray with Jesus for Christian unity. We pray for the bishops, ministers and members of all churches. We pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us all on this path of unity.
Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.
Day 4, A Priestly People Called to Proclaim the Gospel
- Genesis 17:1-8, Your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
- Psalm 145:8-12, The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
- Romans 10:14-15, And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?
- Matthew 13:3-9, Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
In today’s world more than ever, words flood into our homes: no longer just from our conversations, but from television, radio and now from social media. These words have the power to build up and to knock down. Much of this ocean of words seems meaningless; diversion rather than nourishment.
One could drown in such an ocean where there is no meaning to grasp. But we have heard a saving Word; it has been thrown to us as a lifeline. It calls us into communion, and draws us into unity with others who have heard it too. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people.
More than this, we are a priestly people. United with others who have received his Word, our words are no longer mere drops lost in the ocean. Now we have a powerful Word to speak. United we can speak it powerfully; Yeshua—God saves.
Lord Jesus, you said that everyone will know that we are your disciples if there is love among us. Strengthened by your grace, may we work tirelessly for the visible unity of your Church, so that the Good News that we are called to proclaim will be seen in all our words and deeds. Amen.
Day 5, The Fellowship of the Apostles
- Isaiah 56:6-8, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
- Psalm 24, Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
- Acts 2:37-42, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
- John 13:34-35, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not theoretical. Our communion of love with one another becomes concrete when we gather together intentionally as Christ’s disciples, to share fellowship and prayer in the power of the Spirit.
The more that Christians, especially their leaders, encounter Christ together in humility and patience, the more prejudice diminishes, the more we discover Christ in one another, and the more we become authentic witnesses to the Kingdom of God.
At times ecumenism can seem very complicated. Yet joyful fellowship, a shared meal and common prayer and praise are ways of apostolic simplicity. In these we obey the commandment to love one another, and proclaim our Amen to Christ’s prayer for unity.
God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that with the eyes of our hearts we may see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above and through all and in all. Amen.
Day 6, Listen to this Dream
- Genesis 37:5-8, Listen to this dream that I dreamed.
- Psalm 126, We were like those who dream.
- Romans 12: 9-13, Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
- John 21:25, The world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Joseph has a dream, which is a message from God. However, when Joseph shares his dream with his brothers they react with anger and violence because the dream implies that they must bow down before him. Ultimately famine drives the brothers to Egypt and they do bow before Joseph, but rather than the abasement and dishonor they fear, it is a moment of reconciliation and grace.
Jesus, like Joseph, unfolds to us a vision, a message about the life of his Father’s kingdom. It is a vision of unity. But like Joseph’s brothers, we are often upset, angered and fearful of the vision and what it seems to imply. It demands that we submit and bow to the will of God. We fear it because we fear what we might lose. But the vision is not about loss. Rather, it is about regaining brothers and sisters we had lost, the reuniting of a family.
We have written many ecumenical texts, but the vision of Christian unity is not captured in agreed statements alone, important though these are. The unity God desires for us, the vision he puts before us, far exceeds anything we can express in words or contain in books. The vision must take flesh in our lives and in the prayer and mission that we share with our brothers and sisters. Most of all it is realized in the love we show for one another.
Heavenly Father, grant us humility to hear your voice, to receive your call, and to share your dream for the unity of the Church. Help us to be awake to the pain of disunity. Where division has left us with hearts of stone, may the fire of your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts and inspire us with the vision of being one in Christ, as he is one with you, so that the world may believe that you have sent him. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Day 7, Hospitality for Prayer
- Isaiah 62:6-7, Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent.
- Psalm 100, Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness.
- 1 Peter 4:7b-10, Be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.
- John 4:4-14, The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.
As long as God’s people are divided, and Christians are estranged from one another, we are like Jesus in Samaria, strangers in a foreign land, without safety, without refreshment and without a place of rest.
The people of Israel longed for a place of safety where they could worship the Lord. Isaiah tells us of the Lord’s mighty act; he posted sentinels on the walls of Jerusalem so that his people could worship him in safety day and night.
In the Week of Prayer our churches and chapels become places of safety, rest and refreshment for people to join in prayer. The challenge from this week is to create more places and protected times of prayer, because as we pray together, we become one people.
Lord Jesus, you asked your apostles to stay awake with you and to pray with you. May we offer the world protected times and spaces in which to find refreshment and peace, so that praying together with other Christians we may come to know you more deeply. Amen.
Day 8, Hearts Burning for Unity
- Isaiah 52:7-9, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news.
- Psalm 30, You have turned my mourning into dancing.
- Colossians 1:27-29, How great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you.
- Luke 24:13-36, Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
The disappointed disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus have lost their hope that Jesus was the Messiah and walk away from their community. It is a journey of separation and isolation.
By contrast, they return to Jerusalem full of hope with a Gospel message on their lips. It is this resurrection message that drives them back into the heart of the community and into a communion of fellowship.
So often Christians try to evangelize with a competitive spirit, hoping to fill their own churches. Ambition overrides the desire for others to hear the life-giving message of the Gospel. True evangelism is a journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem, a journey from isolation into unity.
Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.