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Please note the following is an excerpt from “Jesus’ Prayer from A to Z”, of which I’m Editor.
– F – Focus: Unity and the Prayer of the Savior, by Fitch, Alger
God’s desire for the oneness of His people is evident in the Bible... but never more clearly than in Jesus’ high priestly prayer of John 17... let us tiptoe to the place where our Savior is praying... it is the Son of God, talking with his Father... Unity of (future) believers is of primary concern to him.
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. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20,21)
THE PRAYER: ITS FOCUS –
It is instructive to ask, exactly for whom is Jesus praying, when he asks “that all... be one”? Is this a prayer for the union of all religions? ...such inclusiveness... is foreign to Jesus’ prayer. His concern... is for those who come to believe in him through the apostles’ testimony.
Some things are worse than division. (e.g.) A union... of... indifference? If religionists hold their tenets with little conviction, any compromise for the sake of harmony would be all right with them. (However) A church without backbone... is not the church revealed in Scripture.
The “them” in John 17 has not to do with corporations but with Christians. The unity is individual not institutional. Denominational loyalty is not the subject matter of Christ’s prayer.
THE PRAYER: ITS BURDEN –
Christian unity - that for which Jesus prayed - is based on Christ’s atonement and his intention of bringing salvation to the world. It is a unity “that the world may believe...” It is a oneness as exemplified in the relation of the Father with the Son, and a oneness maintained by our relationship with both the Father and the Son. The believer’s unity is a unity given by God.
Church unity is unity in mission. Jesus and his Father were one in purpose. Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus... states as his reason for coming incarnate, “I have come down from heaven... to do the will of him who sent me”. (6:38) He specifies, “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life”. (6:40)
No church union with another purpose than world salvation is worthy of the designation Christian unity. As Donald G. Bloesch has written, “The goal of authentic ecumenism is not a super-church with power and prestige, but rather a worldwide fellowship of believers united under the Word and dedicated to the conversion and salvation of mankind.” (1)
THE PRAYER: ITS EXAMPLE –
To be a disciple is to be like the Master. In the face of potential division among his followers, what did he do? (By example, what does he want his followers to do?) Knowing that God alone is able to make and keep us one, Jesus went to his Father in prayer... The church can be put on its feet when it is put on its knees.
Prayer is not an easy way to get our wants fulfilled... But to pray in Jesus’ name - according to his will, or for his sake - is never out of order, (whether) we ask for the salvation of men or the oneness of the believers that draws the lost to him.
What can you do for the cause of unity? Jesus went to pray. How about you and me? Should not our tears for the division in Jesus’ body cause us to unite those tears with his?
The greatest work on earth is soul-winning, and the greatest privilege on earth is to kneel in prayer for a united church, getting up then to help answer that prayer... When we unite in prayer - real prayer - we will unite in fact.
For the sake of promoting the oneness for which Jesus prayed, let us “pray continually” (I Thessalonians 5:17)... If you believe the Book and want the oneness, you start with prayer... One thing we know, disciples may fall asleep when Jesus prays, but he will never sleep while any of us seek his face.
You can’t keep praying for unity without beginning to really desire it. Decide if you really want harmony in your congregation and with all others... If you are serious, the dangerous thing is that your prayer will be answered, possibly bringing more than you intended... You could begin to see good in other believers you had failed to recognize before. Your arms might lengthen to reach out toward others (with whom) prior to this, you did not desire to (be in) fellowship. The old sectarian garb that used to feel so comfortable... might become too restrictive and narrow for your expanding mind and heart.
Jesus prayed. I should pray. We should pray together. The focus should be those who believe in Christ. The burden should be ONE CHURCH, so that there may be a WON WORLD. The example should be that when you and I pray as Christ prayed, each petitioner adds to the oratorio of prayer until the crescendo of perfect unity is reached.
When the true Church is together In the final victory
What a hymn of joyous triumph it will raise;
When the Savior’s prayer is answered,
What rejoicing there will be,
All together, one in Christ, to sing His praise. (2)
This article condensed from Chapter 4, One Father One Family: A Biblical Study of Unity. Used by permission. Available from the author: P.O. Box 100, Turner, OR 97392-0100
(1) The Reform of the Church, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 184
(2) © 1988 Carlton C. Buck & Lawrence Crook, Box 211, Eugene, OR 97440. Used by permission.
Prayer: Adjust the focus of our hearts, Lord, to see the Body of Christ as You see her. Make us yokefellows with you, Lord, for your yoke is easy and your burden light, a burden for the lost worth bearing. Empower our praying by your Spirit to follow your example in oneness of heart and purpose, to the praise of your glory.
Fitch, Dr. Alger - Turner, OR - Retired Professor, Pacific Christian College, where he served from 1968. Earned degrees: B.Th.; B.D.; M.A.; D.Rel. Author of numerous teaching books, including One Father, One Family. Even in retirement he spends months each year teaching for South Seas Christian Ministries. He intentionally worships with churches from all three streams of the Restoration Movement
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Believers in Fiji, Finland, France, French Guiana, French PolynesiaThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Tom (Jn.17:21) M.,
Fellowship of John 17:21
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