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.
Sunday, January 21
Through love we freely choose to be servants of one another (Galatians 5:13)
- Psalm 105:16-45 God worked through Joseph and Moses – his servants – to restore his people
- Isaiah 52:1-4 Behold, my servant whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights
- Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many
- Philippians 2:1-11 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others
- Galatians 5:1, 13-15, 25-26 Through love be servants of one another and live in unity together
Commentary: What is the sure path and motivating force that leads to Christian unity and fruitful mission? On the eve of his sacrifice Jesus took a towel and basin of water and began to wash his disciple’s feet and then he gave them a new command: love one another as I have loved you. By this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
The Lord Jesus said that he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Jesus was King by right, but Servant by choice. Through meekness, humility, and compassionate love Jesus chose to lay down his life for us – to set us free to love and serve one another (Galatians 5:13). This is the one true path to reconciliation, peace, and unity with all who belong to Christ. And this is the driving force that led the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
The distinctive hallmark and trait of every follower and disciple of Jesus Christ is love – a love that is wholly directed to the good of others – a love that is Christ-centered and ready to forgive and forget past injuries, to heal and restore rather than inflict revenge and injury. The cross of Jesus is the only way to pardon, reconciliation, and peace. Every other way will fail or fall short of the glory and victory which Jesus Christ has won for us through his death and resurrection. The love of Christ is not only a promise but a present gift and reality for all who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul the Apostle tells us that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).
If we embrace his love and truth and allow the Holy Spirit to purify and transform our hearts and minds, then we will find the inner freedom, joy, and strength we need to love without measure, to forgive without limit, and to serve without reward – save that of knowing we are serving the One who unites us in an unbreakable bond of peace and joy forever.
Questions for reflection:
- Whose kingdom do you serve? And who sits on the throne of your heart? There is only one King and Ruler who is the Lord of All. The Father in heaven sent his one and only Son as the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. Does the Lord Jesus take first place and precedence in your life?
- How did the Lord Jesus accomplish the mission he was sent to do? Jesus willingly obeyed and served his Father. Jesus told his disciples that he came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). He willingly laid down his life to set us free from slavery to sin and Satan and his kingdom of darkness.
- Paul the Apostle tells us that Jesus “took the form of a servant” and “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). We are called to take on the same mind and attitude which was in Christ.
- Christ has set us free to walk in love, humility, and Christian servanthood. Paul the Apostle writes, For you were called to freedom brethren, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another (Galatians 5:1,13). Are you willing to serve as Jesus served and to lay down your life for his sake and for the good of your brothers and sisters in Christ?
Prayer: Lord our God, you are the origin and goal of all living things. Forgive us when we only think of ourselves and are blinded by our own standards. Open our hearts and our eyes. Teach us to love as you love, serve as you serve, and forgive as you forgive. May we love and serve one another in the unity of God our Father, the only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit who is the Giver of Life.