“May they be all be one…”

Below is the reflection I gave on 22nd January 2005 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in response to the follow passage of Scripture:

After saying this, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

… Consecrate [those you have given me] in the truth; your word is truth….I pray not only for these but for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me.

May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.  I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one.  With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognise that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you loved me.

…. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them – John 17:1, 17-23, 26

Introduction

This is the week of prayer for Christian unity, so I intend to speak for only a couple of minutes so we can get back to the business of prayer.  I wanted to say just a few words about the reading that was chosen for tonight’s service.

Prayer from the Sacred Heart

The reading is from the end of John 17 – it’s the prayer Jesus makes just prior to His arrest.  Jesus knew of His impending passion and death and therefore, in a sense, this is His “Last Will & Testament”.  Because of this, His words are especially urgent and important.

When I was twenty I had an awakening in my faith – I had always been a Christian – but there were a few months in my early twenties when my faith really shifted gears – I started to have real joy when I went to church, when I prayed I really felt God’s presence and when I read the Bible it came alive.  And I can remember the first time I read the passage we heard tonight – I was in a little prayer group in a room adjacent to my local church.

I remember reading the passage and hearing His words – His fervent, passionate, zealous words.  I heard the heart of Jesus being poured out: his desire for the Father’s glory, for His disciples and for His desire for intimacy with mankind.

The Grand Finale

The extract we heard tonight is the final part, the culmination of that prayer – “may they be brought to complete unity”.  But Jesus says more than this though – he says why all believers should be brought to complete unity.  As I see it, He gives two reasons:

1.  Firstly, to let the world know that the Father sent Him.  Christian unity is a witness to the gospel of Jesus.

2.  Secondly, to let the world know that the Father loves them as much as he loves His only son.  The love between believers that Jesus talks about is meant to be a sign – an extravagant proclamation of God’s love.  Often in scripture we read about people drawn to Christ and his followers – attracted by the authenticity of the love they see.

At the time I read the passage I was really trying to search for God’s will.  I was terrified of praying for something that was in conflict with it.  I found God’s will in this passage – a divine mandate, a biblical imperative given to pray for the people of God to be one in the same way the Trinity is one.

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

And this is the challenge we are set tonight.  To pray the prayer of Jesus – to pray for the Church, the people of God, to pray that the love of Christians for one another will be a witness to the world.  And, particularly in the time of silence, see what He has to say to us about it…

At the end of this service, there will be an opportunity to provide an outward expression of your inward desire to continue praying Jesus’s prayer.  There will be a few stations around the church, where, if you think that you will find it helpful, you can light a candle to symbolise this desire.

“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you”

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One Response to “May they be all be one…”

  1. David Exner says:

    This passage was one of the initial catalysts that brought me back to the Church.

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