‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’ (Psalm 133:1)
18-25 January is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The church across the world is hugely diverse – with different styles, emphases and practices. When we choose to pray for other Christians and churches – including those that are very different to us – it helps us appreciate the diversity of God’s family, and makes us more aware of the challenges people face in different contexts.
The theologian Karl Barth is reported to have said: “We must hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” This is a great principle for prayer! One of the reasons we often don’t pray for the unity of the church across the world is that we’re too focussed on our own little world and unaware of what’s happening elsewhere. It’s a great discipline to hear the stories of others, educate ourselves about the global church, and pray on behalf of those we may not even know.
Here are a few practical suggestions of things to try this week, which will help you grow in appreciation for the global church and pray for Christian unity.
Praying by Yourself
One helpful way to learn to pray for others is to start with those closest to you and gradually widen out the circle. Why not pray for a different group of people each day? It may help to follow a plan like this:
- Monday: Pray for those closest to you in the church: your friendship group, Connect Group or serving team.
- Tuesday: Pray for those within your service, including your leaders. Pray that your service will become a welcoming place where many find faith in Jesus.
- Wednesday: Pray for the other services at ChristChurch London and for our vision as a church spread across the city. You may want to remind yourself of our church vision.
- Thursday: Pray for other churches in your area, that God would use them to bless your part of London. You might want to research what other churches are doing near you, or if you have friends in local churches, text them and ask how you can pray for their church.
- Friday: Pray for Christians across the whole city. Pray that churches would dwell in unity, and that believers would be a positive influence in their communities, universities and workplaces.
- Saturday: Pray for the church across the UK. You may find it helpful to read the Theos report Doing Good: A Future for Christianity in the 21st Century and use it to fuel your prayers for the church.
- Sunday: Pray for the church across the world, in particular those facing persecution. Pray for people from ChristChurch London who are working overseas or planting churches in other nations.
You may find it helpful to subscribe to email newsletters which will inform you about prayer needs across the world. Organisations like Tearfund and World Vision send out emails with information about humanitarian crises and suggestions for how to pray.
For some of us, it’s not so much a case of having a newspaper in one hand, but a Twitter feed! As you use Social Media this week, try not to simply consume information, but turn it back into prayer. When you come across troubling stories, before you scroll on, take a moment to ask God to intervene. And similarly, when you come across a good news story, why not pause and give thanks to God. And if you fancy tweeting short prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, remember to use the hashtag #WPCU2017.
Another way to help you appreciate the diversity of the church is to draw from streams that you might not normally. Try reading books that help you to appreciate approaches to prayer you may never have experienced before. Richard Foster’s Prayer contains some great chapters, which will introduce you to prayer practices from across the body of Christ.
Praying with Others
Many of the suggestions above are also great to try in groups. But here are a few other ideas for how you can pray in your Connect Groups, with housemates, or with other Christians in your workplace.
Why not take Karl Barth’s saying literally, and sit down together with a Bible and a newspaper and take time to pray about the stories that stand out to you. You may find it helpful to read the news in advance of meeting together and each bring a particular story for prayer. You could take it in turns to inform one another about a situation in the world, and then pray together.
It’s often easy to focus on the things that divide us, rather than the things that unite us. Why not read through some of the creeds together, reminding yourself of the core elements that unite Christians around the world. The Nicene Creed and Apostle’s Creed are particularly helpful. You may want to talk about them, and then say them together as a prayerful statement of unity.
Praying with Children
This week the children continued looking at the Lord’s Prayer, considering the phrase ‘hallowed be your name.’ We learnt that God is holy. Before we ask Him for anything, we think about who God is. We put Him in first place.
You can download the take home sheet to find out what they covered. When you pray, why not help your children think about making God number one. Ask them to list all the different areas of their lives where they would like to see God made number one. Then pray using the things they’ve written. For example:
Parent: Dear Father, in my school…
Child: Hallowed be your name
Parent: In my football club…
Child: Hallowed be your name