Praying for Unity through God’s Glory [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:21-23)

Jesus plunges ahead in prayer to the deep place of God’s relational unity: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” This is one of the great and mysterious truths of the Christian life. God is one in the unity of His substance, yet at the same time distinguished as three persons. There is a unified community of being within God that Jesus expresses here in prayer. Jesus points to God’s essential unity within diversity and diversity within unity. It is this unity within God that is the basis for the unity within God’s people seen in Jesus’ prayer.

Many times when we talk about unity, we begin to talk a lot about love. We know that love is critical to upholding unity within the church and is the essence of what it means to live the Christian life. Love is incredibly important, and we all must learn to love others more deeply and truly.

But Jesus takes His prayer for unity in a different direction. Jesus does not pray here that God would give His people greater capacity or ability to love one another. He prays about something else entirely. He prays that His glory would flow into His future followers and lead them into transformed relationship with God and, therefore, with one another. What is God’s glory? It is the fullness of God’s goodness and greatness being revealed. When Jesus’ prays for God’s glory to fill God’s people it is a prayer that the goodness and greatness of God would be manifested within the lives of His people.

Biblical scholar Raymond Brown points out that “unity is not simply human fellowship or the harmonious interaction of Christians.”  There is “both a horizontal and a vertical dimension” to unity.[1] What Jesus knew, and we need to recognize, is that our breakthroughs to unity with others depend upon the glory of God descending into our lives and relationships. The more we are transformed in our relationship with God by His indwelling presence, the more our relationships with others will be likewise transformed. The result is a glorious unity with one source in the Living God.

As we seek unity, let us pray for God’s glory – His goodness and greatness – to become even more present, yes, even preeminent, in us.

Lord, please pour out Your glory in us
that our lives might be overcome by who You are.
And as Your glory becomes more and more prominent in us
may Your beautiful unity also take root within us.
What we really want is to be more like You,
individually and corporately as Your people.
We know there is no other way for that to happen
than for You to have Your way in us.
Come, Holy Father,
Come, Jesus the Son,
Come, Holy Spirit,
Live in us!


[1] Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John, AB (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1970), 2: 776.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying Proactively for Unity [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“My prayer is not for them alone. 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.” (John 17:20-21)

Many of us tend to be reactive in prayer. We pray for provision when our finances get tight or we lose our job. We pray for healing when we arrive at the hospital or experience emotional trauma. We pray for wisdom when we find ourselves at the crossroads of decisions. We respond – or react – to the situations that come our way. This is an entirely appropriate and powerful way to pray. Throughout Scripture, from the early disciples’ prayers when facing arrest to Moses’ prayer before the burning bush, we see people respond to their circumstances with prayer.

But along with this reactive style of prayer we need to learn from Jesus’ approach to prayer in John 17. There, Jesus proactively prays for things that are yet to come. This forward-thinking approach to prayer arises from the fact that Jesus had both the most realistic view of human life and the most active engagement with the divine life of any person that has ever walked the face of the earth. Jesus prays for all who will come and, in this moment, brings the future people of God – even you and me – into God’s holy presence through prayer. Just pause for a moment to consider the reality that Jesus prayed for us. It is amazing.

The focus of Jesus’ prayer was unity among believers. I remember a time when I was on a short-term trip with a group of students and conflict broke out within the group. People were name-calling, tensions were rising, and the leaders on the trip were completely caught off-guard. Of course, our response in the moment was to pray and ask God to heal the rifts and bring us to unity. God did graciously answer our prayer, redirecting the team so that our disunity did not distract from our purpose for being there.

What I learned from that experience is that we should expect the threat of disunity to arise within our life and ministry as believers. Disunity descends because of our sin, human brokenness, past history, and spiritual attack from the evil one. The threat of disunity should not surprise us. Jesus knows this, and so He prays for unity before disunity even has the opportunity to exist.

If we want unity in our relationships – in our church – in churches around our city,  nation and world – then we must pray proactively for God to make us one. We should not wait for divisions to come upon us. Instead, knowing that the possibility of division is always around the corner, we should pray for unity ahead of time.

There is power in such proactive prayer. Jesus understood this and He shows us – even as He prays for us – the importance of bringing things to God ahead of time.

Lord, please make us one
as You are one.
Protect us from the divisions
that the evil one sows into our midst.
Save us from the walls we often raise up
between us and others.
We admit that divisions often come,
and have already come,
and may come in future days.
Forgive us, Lord, for the ways
we contribute to disunity.
Make us more like You:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
  who reign in glorious, Triune unity.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying with Praise [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13)

The Lord’s Prayer ends with a brief statement that returns our focus to the power and presence of God. This ascription does not appear in the earliest biblical manuscripts and is usually seen only in footnotes within our contemporary Bible translations. As John Calvin notes, however, “it is so appropriate to this place that it ought not to be omitted.”[1]

These final words are appropriate because they return attention to God at the conclusion of prayer, which is where Jesus taught us to begin our prayers. Jesus teaches that our prayers should be book-ended with Godward praise. After moving through the second half of the prayer’s petitions related to the needs of our earthly lives, the Lord’s Prayer concludes with deep assurance of God’s stability, faithfulness, and rule over all the earth. This assurance includes all that we have presented to Him in prayer. After all is said and down we enter into a place of rest and peace in the presence of our holy and good Father to whom all praise belongs.

When we pray, we go on a journey with God. The journey of prayer begins with His holy and good presence, meanders through our requests related to His kingdom and our needs, and concludes with attentive trust in God’s faithful character. And so, we begin to enter into what the psalmist proclaims:

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Jesus teaches us to pray in such a way that from start to finish, in all our praise and confession, in all our gratitude and petition, we are held in the gracious power of our kingly God, who is also our loving Father.

Lord, receive the praise in me
that You truly deserve,
for all the praise truly belongs
to You before and after all others.
You are so holy and so good.
You are so righteous and so just.
You are my Rock and my Fortress.
You are my King and my Father.
And I trust You above all.
Receive the praise You deserve in me.
Amen.


[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 915.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying for Deliverance [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

Within many cultures, and particularly here in North America, we seem obsessed with discovering who we are. Many times, it is suggested that in order to find ourselves we must leave behind all limits and throw aside all rules. The key, many say, is to give ourselves to the full range of experiences and desires, and by doing so we will find out who we truly are. In that approach to life, words like “temptation” and “evil” lose their meaning, unless interpreted as the temptation toward an evil of resisting our desire for anything that helps us become ourselves.

Jesus’ life, however, presents a different way. His public ministry begins with a season of self-denial marked by intense temptation in remote, solitary places (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Three times in that story, Jesus resists temptation. It is the temptation to become less than God intends for Him by giving into various forms of desire. Each time, Jesus resists a very real enemy, Satan, and does so by the power of the God’s Word. Reaching out to God for victory as He quotes Scripture to the devil, Jesus walks through the time of trial and into God’s deliverance and care. Jesus models for us the great truth that we are more than our desires, and that the pathway to the kingdom of God involves denying what we often see as our very self.

Within Jesus’ teaching on prayer here in the Sermon on the Mount, He reminds us that we must call out to God to save us from temptation and also to deliver us when we find the evil one coming against us. If it is true, as the Apostle Peter points out, that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), then the related truth is that we must “be alert and of sober mind” so that we might “resist him, standing firm in the faith” (5:9). The strength for this sober alertness and resistance of faith comes when God fills us with power by the Holy Spirit. As God strengthens our will to resist temptation, He will also reveal that there is a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

May our prayers rise up to God so that we might resist temptation and find deliverance from God in the midst of a world set against Him and His ways.

Save us, Lord, from temptation,
and deliver us from evil.
All around us, Lord, we know
the snares of the evil one
and his minions are gathered.
Truly he is like a prowling lion,
hungry for the sweet taste of human suffering.
Lord, embolden us to resist him,
even to flee from him,
as we run into Your embrace.
Give us eyes to see the darkness around us
and the way out from temptation.
Also, grant us Your strength to stand firm
when the day of evil comes.
Lord, if we should fall, quicken us
by the grace of Your Holy Spirit
to turn around with holy repentance
and find forgiveness at Your throne of grace.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Praying as a Forgiver [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

The second part of the words on forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer relates to the way we treat others. Notice that there is no exhortation here to pray that God would help us to forgive others. No, there is merely the recognition that those who are forgiven also appropriately extend forgiveness to others.

Once, when Jesus was in the midst of a meal at a religious leader’s house, a woman of questionable reputation came in to the house. She drew near to Jesus, wept over His feet, wiped them with her hair and then anointed His feet with precious ointment. In the midst of this socially tense situation, Jesus offers forgiveness to the woman and uses it as a teachable moment for the religious leader, named Simon.

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:40-43)

Returning to the situation before Him, Jesus summarizes the teaching in this way: “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (7:47). The truth is that before God and through Christ all of us have been forgiven greatly. When we understand the depth of God’s grace toward us, the natural overflow is great love toward God and toward others, including forgiveness of their indebtedness to us.

Has someone wronged you at work this week? Has someone spoken ill of you in your apartment complex or neighborhood? Has a sharp word pierced your soul from a loved one in your own home? Let Jesus’ words speak to us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

As we ask God for forgiveness, our hearts become contrite. When we receive forgiveness from God through Christ, our hearts grow soft with gratitude. This softness of heart should lead us outward with forgiveness toward others as well.

How many times should we forgive others? Let us hear these words of Jesus in response:

If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. (Luke 17:3-4).

Lord, I thank You for Your grace
in forgiving me of my sins.
Help me to extend that forgiveness
toward those who have wronged me.
I choose – by the Holy Spirit’s power in me –
to forgive as You have forgiven me.  

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]