The Bible talks about ‘lifting holy hands’ in prayer, which some people still do.
My family, and perhaps yours too, always holds hands around the table when we pray, which is a lovely way of bringing us together as we come to God.
Maybe we could sometimes try this in church too, if it isn’t too shocking a thought?!
With or without giving physical expression to it, the bond we have as a family in Christ is important and precious. And maintaining unity is one of the themes for prayer that has been suggested by several brothers and sisters in responses to the prayer survey, so let’s go with it as our theme for April.
As Easter approaches, it seems a good time to be thinking about unity, as Jesus himself prayed for it for all his disciples at the Last Supper.
When the apostle Paul was writing to the infant churches, he was aware of their problems and divisions, and he says this in Ephesians 4:1-6:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The word ‘one’ occurs 7 times here! Paul’s recipe for unity is simple but demanding; he reminds them (and us) to act as Jesus did, with a humble and gentle heart, patiently bearing with each other in love.
Our world is a world full of difference. There’s endless variety in nature, without which it would be a very dull planet. And there are differences in people too; different characters and temperaments, different likes and dislikes, and we will never, this side of the Kingdom, see eye to eye about everything. But unity is still achievable. Paul reminds us to focus on the things we share and to aim to understand each other, patiently accepting our differences.
A tall order? Then we need to pray for it, pray for the gentleness, humility, patience and love which leads to the oneness which Christ had with his Father and which he prayed would be ours too:
“that they may be one even as we are one.”
We could pray for unity in our nation too. Last month we prayed for the government to take wise decisions, and that prayer needs to continue. But perhaps even more importantly we should now pray that the awful divisions created by the Brexit arguments can be healed, that as a formerly tolerant and secure nation we can somehow come together again with a common purpose, to rebuild.
I came across this prayer, which brings some of these thoughts together:
Just as it was when Jesus made his home on earth,
The world can be a hate-full and cruel place.
We ask that you would guide our actions as believers.
Give us an eagerness to be humble and gentle.
Help us have hearts of patience and forbearance.
Thank You for the hope we have in You;
May Your hope unify our thoughts and decisions
And invoke peace through the Spirit.
Prayer theme for April: unity, in our church family and in our nation
… to be able to understand each other and work together in love, despite differences, focusing our eyes on our shared hope and our one calling in Christ.