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The Sword of the Spirit
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 18-25, 2018

Called to Love, Unity,
and Mission Together

“All will know that you are my disciples
if you have love for one another”
(John 13:35)

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Introduction

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an eight-day observance or “octave” of prayer. It has been this way from the beginnings of this international movement in 1908. Following are a set of eight daily scripture readings, a short commentary on the readings and a prayer. This set of materials was developed by the Sword of the Spirit for use within local communities and households during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity held around the world between January 18-25, 2018.

Included with the common readings and prayers are some additional questions to help individuals and families participate in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We would encourage families to take some time to engage the readings and prayers for each day and talk about them together, perhaps around the dinner table or in family worship time.  Please feel free to adapt or change them as helpful.  In particular the ‘questions for reflection’ will benefit from adaptations or expansion to best match the ecumenical reality in each local situation.

We have also included a short Lord’s Day prayer that can be inserted in the section following the Blessing of the Wine which can be used like the other seasonal variations in the Lord’s Day prayers.

Please use these materials in any way you find most helpful in your personal and family worship times during this season of prayer.

Note: The Psalms listed here follow the numbering of the Hebrew tradition.

 

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Thursday January 25

Through love we call upon the Holy Spirit for renewed zeal and a fresh outpouring of grace for living together in unity and in pursuing common mission (Ephesians 4:15-16)

  • Haggai1:4-8 and 2:4-5 Take courage and rebuild my house – My Spirit will be with you”
  • Psalm 104:30-35 Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth
  • Ephesians 4:1-7, 15-16 Called to one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism
  • John 17:20-26 Jesus prays for all Christians to be one as the Father and the Son are one

Commentary: [excerpt from Raniero Cantalemessa, Rome Ecumenical Gathering, May 2017] “The Apostle Paul tells us that love is the only ‘debt’ that we have toward others (Romans 13:8). We can love each other because what already unites us is infinitely more important than what divides us. What unites us is the same faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Lord Jesus, true God and true man; the shared hope of eternal life; the common commitment to evangelization; the shared love for the body of Christ, the Church.

“Another important thing also unites us: the shared suffering and shared martyrdom for Christ. In so many parts of the world, believers from different churches are sharing the same sufferings and enduring the same martyrdom for Christ. They are not being persecuted and killed because they are Catholic, or Anglicans, or Pentecostals or from some other denomination, but because they are ‘Christians.’ In the eyes of the world we are already one single group, and it is a shame if we are not also that in reality.

“The prophet Haggai has an oracle that seems to be written for us in this moment of history. The people of Israel had just returned from exile, but rather than rebuilding the house of God together, each of them was building and adorning their own houses. God thus sends his prophet with a message of reproof: ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? …Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory, says the Lord’ (Haggai1:4-8).

“We need to hear how this same reproof from God might be addressed to us and to repent. Those who listened to Peter’s discourse on the day of Pentecost ‘were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, … and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:37-38). A renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit will not be possible without a collective movement of repentance on the part of all Christians.

“After the people of Israel set about rebuilding the temple of God, the prophet Haggai was once again sent to the people, but this time with a message of encouragement and consolation: ‘Now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the LORD; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you. My Spirit abides among you; fear not’ (Haggai 2:4-5).

“That same word of consolation is now addressed to us Christians, not just as a biblical citation but as the living and efficacious word of God that is bringing about here and now what it signifies: ‘Take courage, all you people of God, and work because I am with you, says the Lord! My Spirit will be with you.’”

Questions for Reflection:

  • Do you believe in the power of repentance and forgiveness to bring healing, restoration, and blessing? Daniel faithfully prayed three times a day and he interceded on behalf of his people for 70 years during Israel’s exile (Daniel 9:2). God heard his prayers and many exiles returned to restore Jerusalem and worship in the Temple.
  • God is pouring out his Spirit today to heal, restore, and renew his people in love, unity, and power for new mission and evangelization. Will you commit to pray and fast like Daniel for God to renew the hearts of his people and to restore what has been lost?
  • Do you believe the Lord is opening new doors for mission and evangelization in your city, your country, and throughout the world? Pray for God to raise up new generations of people to spread the Gospel in the power of the Spirit and to make disciples in every city and nation on the face of the earth.
  • Do you believe that God is equipping you with spiritual power to be a bridge builder, peacemaker, and his ambassador on a mission of reconciliation and peace? With God all things are possible. Trust him, obey him, and let him use you and your community for the advancement of his kingdom. To him be the glory and the power and the kingdom now and forever.

Prayer: 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.

Additional Reading:

Convergent Ecumenism

Dr. John Yocum

Our ecumenical life in The Sword of The Spirit is grounded in hope, hope that in these days the Holy Spirit is at work to draw together all those who belong to Christ in closer bonds of fellowship, mutual service and common witness.

As a community of communities, we are not engaged in theological dialogue that attempts to overcome historic differences in doctrine. Nevertheless, as brothers and sisters who remain committed to our own Christian churches and to the teaching of those churches, our life and mission together is built on confidence that the Holy Spirit is at work among the Christian people to bring about a greater convergence in the truth in areas of historic disagreement.

Perhaps the chief example of this appeared in the 1970s, when theologians of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches made a common declaration on the Incarnation, after being divided for more than 1500 years over the precise way in which Jesus Christ is both God and man. As these theologians considered the doctrines of their respective churches, they came to recognize that, while they might still disagree on the best way to express the truth, they professed faith in the same Christ and could offer a common witness to Jesus Christ as true God and true man. Healing 1500 years of doctrinal division? That is nothing short of miraculous! Similar convergences can be seen on other issues among the Christian churches, such as the nature of salvation, the inspiration of the Scripture, and the sacraments.

May the Lord in his goodness grant us the grace to draw ever nearer one another as we draw nearer to Christ.

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Dr. John Yocum is a Regional Elder in the Servants of the Word and teaches at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, USA

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