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”
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.
Saturday, January 20
Through love we lay down our lives for all the brethren (1 John 3:16)
- Leviticus 19:17-18 Bear no vengeance or grudge – love your neighbor as yourself
- Psalm 15 The blameless shows respect and does no wrong to brother and neighbor
- John 15:12-17 Love one another as I have loved you
- 1 John 3:11, 14-18 We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren
Commentary: Love of the brethren and living together in Christian community is a sheer gift and grace of God won for us by Christ who shed his blood for us on the cross. Without Christ we are weak, powerless, and subject to our own sinful inclinations, bad attitudes, and hurtful speech and behavior. Being united with Christ enables us to love and serve one another with compassion and meekness and to reject and put to death whatever is sinful and contrary to his law of love. Paul the Apostle writes, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Unless brotherly love, tenderhearted care and concern for one another is exercised daily, we can easily drift into putting our own interests and concerns ahead of our brother’s and sister’s welfare and concerns. The more we put on love the stronger we grow as a people who love no matter the circumstances and trials that may come our way. And when we sin and fail to love, the surest and quickest way to repair and heal a broken relationship is through repentance, asking and giving forgiveness, showing kindness, mercy, and forbearance towards one another.
Let us pray fervently that the love of Christ may grow in us and that we may excel in showing honor, fraternal love and care for all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Questions for reflection:
- What did Jesus mean when he said to his disciples “love one another as have loved you” (John 15:12)? What did it personally cost Jesus to love his disciples? And what price does he expect his followers to pay in laying down their lives for one another? And what are the rewards of such priceless love?
- Christian love entails full commitment, self-denial, sacrifice, and the willingness to lay down our lives for one another. Where is the Lord calling me to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters in Christ?
- Christian love is other focused – it puts the interests of others and concern for their welfare first. Where do I need to die to self for the love of Christ to grow in me and turn me outward in serving others?
- Where do Christians find the power to love as God loves? Christian love is rooted in God’s love and its source of power is the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (Romans 5:5).
- Earnestly pray that God will renew his people through the purifying action of the Holy Spirit and make them one through the power of his love.
Prayer on behalf of the whole people of God: 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.
Prayer for the Lord’s Day
This prayer may be used after the blessing of the Wine, like the other seasonal variations in the Lord’s Day Ceremony.
Leader: Let us thank Him this day especially for the unity we enjoy in the Body of Christ and for our call to Ecumenical Life in the Sword of the Spirit. May we all become perfectly one, so that the world may know and believe. Lord our God, You are bringing us into the fullness of unity through the work of Your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Group: Now we live with Him through the Holy Spirit, and we look for the day when we will dwell with Him in Your everlasting kingdom.
Back to My Roots
Rami Abou Haidar
I was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church as an infant, following my family’s tradition. For several reasons though, (mainly because I was a student at a Catholic school), I got used to the Catholic liturgy. Growing up, I would eagerly participate in mass every Sunday and attend the church services during special seasons. Yet in all that time, I never participated in a Greek Orthodox liturgy.
Things changed when I joined community. Because ecumenism is one of the core pillars of our identity in the People of God in Lebanon, I was always hearing about the importance of being faithful to our churches and traditions. But even then, I had neither the courage nor the wisdom to go back to my origins, until one day, while leading a UCO household, one of our community coordinators challenged and encouraged me to discover my original church. His words – looking back now, I am certain were inspired by the Holy Spirit. They touched my heart and soul in a remarkable way, and enflamed my heart with a zeal and passion to discover what I had been missing for years.
So, the following Sunday, I started to attend Divine Liturgy at a nearby Greek Orthodox Church. Although everything seemed different, I knew I was home. At the beginning, I put a lot of effort into understanding the prayers, reading different books, and asking many brothers for guidance. Little by little, and with each Sunday, a love towards my Church grew. Each word in the liturgy began to touch my heart, mind and soul. I grew to discover the Lord’s work in a new, marvelous way!
Contemplating this experience, I can assert that it has led me to a deeper understanding of ecumenism. I see more clearly how our faithfulness to our individual churches and traditions fortifies our collective unity. I now recognize the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us together, discern the richness that lies both within my Church and within other Churches, and praise the Lord for his stunning work. Indeed, I now see better than ever how the Lord’s work in our community is a contribution to the life of all his Churches.
Rami Abou Haidar lives and serves as a leader in the People of God community in Beirut, Lebanon.