Saturday December 18 begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which was started by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in order to fulfill Christ’s desire “that [his followers] all may be one” (John 17:21). Other worship resources for this week can be found on the WCC website.
Seeking unity with all Christians, Presbyterians have been leaders in the ecumenical movement. You can find out more about our ecumenical work here. In addition, if you engage in daily prayer, you’ll notice that each week it is standard practice to pray for different communions around the world in the daily prayers of intercession. Whether you use this form, the Mission Yearbook, or your own extemporaneous prayer, don’t forget to pray daily that we may all become one and show Christ’s love to the world.
Be mindful of the unity of the church in the worship service and mission of your local church. For example, most of our liturgy is shared with other Christians around the world. The Book of Common Worship (BCW), from which much of our Sundays’ liturgy comes, says this in the Preface:
The preparation of the 1993 edition of the Book of Common Worship has had the advantage of the continuing liturgical work in all branches of the Christian church, and it reflects these emerging areas of convergence. We are beginning to recognize that our true unity begins at the baptismal font. Baptism is now recognized as fundamental to the life of faith, forming Christians in faith and service. The centrality of the scripture read and proclaimed is being recovered due in large measure to the use of the lectionary. Since the publication of a lectionary that is embraced in whole or in part by a variety of traditions, we are recognizing our unity as we gather as one around the Word. We also share a common liturgical calendar. In celebrating the festivals and seasons, we find a certain unity as together we draw our life from the saving events of God in history. We are moving toward unity at the table, as we are beginning to recognize that in belief and practice there is more that unites us in the Eucharist than divides us. The Eucharist is increasingly recognized as central to the liturgy on the Lord’s Day, and there is a steady movement toward weekly celebration. The continuing barriers that separate us from one another at the table stand in grievous contrast to the growing sense of unity we understand in our baptism, and as we hear the Word. We are learning that unity at the font, pulpit, and table is the true road to healing the brokenness of Christ’s church (“Preface,” Book of Common Worship, 7).
For discussion as a devotion at the start of a church meeting:
Read parts of the above quotation aloud. Ask:
- How is it that our Christian “unity is at the font, pulpit, and table”?
- Is it important that we see the unity of the church as flowing from worship and not just service and mission? Why or why not?
Scripture to Consider
- I Corinthians 1:1-17
- Isaiah 47:14-19
- Psalm 36:5-10
- Mark 9:33-41
- Psalm 133
- John 15:12-17
- I John 1:3-7
- I Peter 2:9-10
- Matthew 12:46-50
- Exodus 19:3-8
- Deuteronomy 26:1-11
- Psalm 100
- Philippians 1:3-11
- Ephesians 2:11-22
- I Corinthians 12
- John 17:20-24
Prayers for Christian Unity
you have called us to be members of one body.
Join us with those
who in all times and places have praised your name,
that, with one heart and mind,
we may show the unity of your church,
and bring honor to our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCW, 17)
Lover of concord,
you desire the unity of all Christians.
Set aflame the whole church with the fire of your Spirit.
Unite us to stand in the world as a sign of your love.
Lord, hear our prayer. (BCW, 341)
. . . Help all who have been baptized in your name
to live in peace and unity
as sisters and brothers in the household of faith,
and to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCW, 417)
For World Unity
A prayer from Zaire
you love justice and you establish peace on earth.
We bring before you the disunity of today’s world:
the absurd violence, and the many wars,
which are breaking the courage of the peoples of the world;
militarism and the armaments race,
which are threatening life on the planet;
human greed and injustice,
which breed hatred and strife.
Send your Spirit and renew the face of the earth;
teach us to be compassionate toward the whole human family;
strengthen the will of all those who fight for justice and for peace;
lead all nations into the path of peace,
and give us that peace which the world cannot give. Amen. (BCW, 797-798)
God of our lives,
by the power of your Holy Spirit
we have been drawn together by one baptism into one faith,
serving one Lord and Savior.
Do not let us tear away from one another
through division or hard argument.
May your peace embrace our differences,
preserving us in unity,
as one body of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCW, 809)
Holy God, giver of peace, author of truth,
we confess that we are divided and at odds with one another,
that a bad spirit has risen among us
and set us against your Holy Spirit of peace and love.
Take from us the mistrust, party spirit, contention,
and all evil that now divides us.
Work in us a desire for reconciliation,
so that, putting aside personal grievances,
we may go about your business with a single mind,
devoted to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCW, 812)
good beyond all that is good,
fair beyond all that is fair,
in you is calmness, peace, and concord.
Heal the dissensions that divide us from one another
and bring us back to a unity of love
bearing some likeness to your divine nature.
Through the embrace of love
and the bonds of godly affection,
make us one in the Spirit
by your peace which makes all things peaceful.
We ask this through the grace, mercy, and tenderness
of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. –Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 264), BCW, 812)
(from Ephesians 4:1–2)
Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness,
with patience, bearing with one another in love,
making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace. (BCW, 417)