The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in 1908 as the Octave of Christian Unity. In the northern hemisphere, the week is celebrated from 18-25 January, but in the southern hemisphere, due to holidays in January, the week is celebrated in the lead-up to Pentecost. This year it will run from 2-9 June.
This year’s theme for the week is "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue”, inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20. Members of different churches in Indonesia have prepared prayer and liturgy resources for the week through the National Council of Churches in Australia.
The importance of Christian unity
When Jesus prayed for all those who believe in Him through the word of the apostles to be “one,” he gave a reason.
John 17:20-23 says: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
The reason Jesus gave for oneness is “so that the world may know” God sent Jesus. The unity of believers is a testimony to who Jesus is. Which means, of course, that the opposite tends to be true as well. When the world sees Christians in disunity, they are less likely to believe.
Walking the talk
Believing in the importance of Christian unity led 40-year-old Australian Sam Clear to go beyond the norm. In 2006, Tasmanian Sam walked from the eastern-most point of Brazil, through South America, Central America and North America, across Siberia. He then caught the Trans-Siberian Railway but was back on foot again from Moscow to the western-most point of Spain, all for the sake of Christian unity.
As he walked the 15,600 kilometres, having to find food and water every day was the least of his worries. He was threatened at gun point three times, robbed at knife point, beaten up on the side of the road, came face to face with dangerous animals, was hospitalised many times and endured extreme temperatures.
He prayed for Christian unity as he walked and took the opportunity to speak to people along the way. You can read Sam’s story in his book, Walk4One: Paving a Path to Unity.
Sam has spoken at our Diocesan events Pints with A Purpose, and Real Women, and continues to share the challenge of John 17:21. “I pray … so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
Get involved in the week of prayer
Sam Clear now encourages people to pray at 4:01pm each day for Christian unity. One example of a short prayer from Sam’s website for this, is:
"Holy Father, please unite all Christians as one, in truth and in love, for the glory of your name and for the salvation of souls."
This week could be a great opportunity to take on that practice.
Another way you can be involved in the week of prayer for Christian unity is by taking time each day to read and pray with these reflections.