CALL TO PRAYER: Praying for unity in the church
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world.
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Prompted by an inter-cultural prayer meeting hosted by the North American Mission Board in November 2013, Southern Baptist leaders from around the country have called for a seven-day prayer emphasis to begin on Father's Day, June 15.
Called "One in Christ," the prayer focus includes daily Scripture readings and prayer encouragements that will be sent to the smartphones of all who register at OneFather.org. Scripture readings include the six chapters of Ephesians and Jesus' letter to the church of Ephesus recorded in Revelation 2.
Father's Day week was chosen for the prayer emphasis since all believers have one Father and are, therefore, one family in Christ. The book of Ephesians, with its emphasis on unity, has particular relevance for the struggles experienced by the 21st-century church and was selected as the scriptural focus for the week.
The call to pray for unity in the church is not new. Jesus prayed for us, present-day Christians, in John 17:20 when He said, "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world will believe that You sent Me."
The end result of our oneness or unity is that people will believe in Jesus. That alone makes it a worthy goal. Praying in one accord was the hallmark of the early church and they turned their world upside down spreading the gospel, because of their love for Jesus and each other.
It is possible for us to see the revival and spiritual awakening we long for, and that God wants to pour out, if we simply love one another. That is easy to say, but often hard to do. The following are a few biblical prayers we can pray in agreement asking God to equip, empower and enable us to be one with Him and one with each other. May He grant our requests.
-- From Ephesians 4:2-4: Father, please help us to walk in a manner worthy of You and Your call to us. Give us a spirit of humility, gentleness and patience that we may show tolerance for one another in love. Help us to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
-- From Jeremiah 32:39: O Lord, we long for You to give us one heart and one way that we may fear You always for our own good and for the good of our children after us.
-- From Psalm 86:11-12: Merciful God, we are prone to wander, so please teach us Your way, O Lord; we will walk in Your truth; unite our hearts to fear Your name and to follow You closely. We will give thanks to You, O Lord our God, with all our hearts, and will glorify Your name forever.
-- From Colossians 3:13-15: Father, please give us a forgiving spirit to quickly forgive offenses, so that we can put on love which is the perfect bond of unity. Please let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts knowing we are called in one body. Make us thankful to You, dear Lord.
-- From Malachi 2:10: Father God, You are the Father of us all. You are the One who has created us and yet we often deal treacherously with each other bringing shame on the Name above all names. Forgive us Lord for our blindness and bring us to the end of ourselves, so that we focus on You and Your glory in the bond of peace. For Your name's sake bring a spirit of unity to the Southern Baptist Convention that will draw people to Jesus.
-- From John 17:22-23: Thank You, Jesus, for praying for us to receive the glory that Your and our Father gave to you to make us one; that we may be perfected in unity, so that the whole world may know that God, the Father sent the Son, Jesus to demonstrate the depth of love You have for each other and for us. Your generous love is appealing; may we allow Your perfect love to flow freely through us to each other and to the world.
In celebration of the fact that we have one Father, you as an individual, your small group or your congregation are encouraged to join thousands of Christ followers across North America on a seven-day Scripture and prayer journey through Paul's letter to the Ephesian believers beginning on Father's Day, Sunday, June 15, 2014. Visit http://OneFather.org to learn more.
All Scripture quotations are NASB, unless otherwise noted. Elaine Helms, who served as the Southern Baptist Convention prayer coordinator at the North American Mission Board from 2000-2010, is a member of the One Father Prayer Fellowship; director of ChurchPrayerMinistries.org; and was the prayer coordinator for My Hope America with Billy Graham 2012-2013. She is the author of "Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know."