Prayer For A Spirit of Cooperation and Unity
Library : Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
by Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI General Audience Address January 19, 2011
In his general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is taking place from 18 to 25 January and during which «all those who believe in Christ are invited to come together in prayer, so as to bear witness to the profound ties that unite them and to invoke the gift of full communion».
Publisher & Date
Vatican, January 19, 2011
Dear Brothers and Faithful,
We are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in which all believers in Christ are asked to unite in prayer in order to witness to the deep bond that exists between them and to invoke the gift of full communion.
It is providential that in the process of building unity prayer is made central. This reminds us once again that unity cannot be a mere product of human endeavour; it is first and foremost a gift of God which entails growth in communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Second Vatican Council says: “Such prayers in common are certainly a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity, and they are a genuine expression of the ties which still bond Catholics to their separated brethren. ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Mt 18:20)” (Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 8).The path that leads to the visible unity of all Christians lies in prayer, because, fundamentally, it is not we who “build” unity but God who “builds” it, it comes from him, from the Trinitarian Mystery, from the unity of the Father with the Son in the dialogue of love, which is the Holy Spirit; and our ecumenical commitment must be open to divine action, it must become a daily invocation for God's help. The Church is his and not ours.
The theme chosen for this Year’s Week of Prayer refers to the experience of the first Christian Community in Jerusalem, as it is described in the Acts of the Apostles; we have listened to the text: “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
We must consider that in the past, at the very moment of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon people of different languages and cultures. This means that from the very first the Church has embraced people from different backgrounds and yet, it is that the Spirit creates one body precisely from these differences.
Pentecost, as the beginning of the Church, marks the expansion of God’s Covenant to all creatures, all peoples and all epochs, so that the whole of creation may walk towards its true goal: to be a place of unity and love.
In the passage cited from the Acts of the Apostles, four characteristics define the first Christian community of Jerusalem as a place of unity and love. St Luke, moreover, does not only want to describe something from the past. He presents this community to us as a model, as a norm for the Church today, since these four characteristics must always constitute the Church’s life.
The first characteristic is its unity, its devotion to listening to the Apostles’ teaching, then to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. As I have said, still today these four elements are the pillars that support the life of every Christian community and constitute the one solid foundation on which to progress in the search for the visible unity of the Church.
We first have devotion to the teaching of the Apostles, that is, listening to their testimony to the mission, to the life, and to the death and Resurrection of the Lord. This is what Paul calls simply the “Gospel”.
The first Christians received the Gospel from the lips of the Apostles, they were united by listening to it and by its proclamation because, as St Paul says, “the Gospel…
is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rom 1:16).Still today the community of believers recognizes the reference to the Apostles’ teaching as the norm of its own faith. Hence every effort to build unity among all Christians passes through the deepening of our faithfulness to the depositum fidei passed on to us by the Apostles. A steadfast faith is the foundation of our communion, it is the foundation of Christian unity.
The second element is fraternal communion.
At the time of the first Christian community, as it is in our day too, this is the most tangible expression especially for the external world, of unity among the Lord's disciples.
We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the early Christians had all things in common and those with possessions and goods sold them to share the proceeds with the needy (cf. Acts 2:44-45).
This sharing of goods has found ever new forms of expression in the history of the Church. Distinctive among these are the brotherly relations and friendships established between Christians of different denominations.
The history of the ecumenical movement is marked by difficulties and uncertainties but it is also a history of brotherhood, of cooperation and of human and spiritual sharing, which has significantly changed relations between believers in the Lord Jesus: we are all working hard to continue on this path.
Thus the second element is thus communion. This is primarily communion with God through faith; but communion with God creates communion among ourselves and is necessarily expressed in that concrete communion of which the Acts of the Apostles speak, in other words sharing.
No one in the Christian community must be hungry or poor: this is a fundamental obligation. Communion with God, expressed as brotherly communion, is lived out in practice in social commitment, in Christian charity and in justice.
The third element: essential in the life of the first community of Jerusalem was the moment of the breaking of the bread in which the Lord makes himself present, with the unique sacrifice of the Cross, in his unreserved gift of self for the life of his friends: “this is my body which will be given up for you… this is the cup of my blood…. It will be shed for you”.
“The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church” (John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 1).Communion in Christ’s sacrifice is the crowning point of our union with God and thus also represents the fullness of the unity of Christ’s disciples, full communion.
In this Week of Prayer for Unity our regret about the impossibility of sharing the same Eucharistic banquet — a sign that we are still far from achieving that unity for which Christ prayed — is particularly acute.
This sorrowful experience, which also gives our prayers a penitential dimension, must become the reason for an even more generous dedication on the part of all so that, once the obstacles that stand in the way of full communion have been removed, the day will come when we can gather round the table of the Lord to break the Eucharistic bread together and to drink from the same cup.
Lastly, prayer — or as St Luke says prayers — is the fourth characteristic of the early Church of Jerusalem described in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Prayer has always been a constant attitude of disciples of Christ, something that accompanies their daily life in obedience to God’s will, as the Apostle Paul’s words in his First Letter to the Thessalonians also attest: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes 5:16-18; cf. Eph 6:18).
Christian prayer, participation in Jesus’ prayer, is a filial experience par excellence as the words of the “Our Father” testify — the “we” of God’s children, brothers and sisters — a family prayer that addresses our common Father. Therefore, adopting an attitude of prayer also means opening ourselves to brotherhood.
Only in the “we” can we say “Our Father”; so let us open ourselves to brotherhood which comes from being children of the one heavenly Father and from being disposed to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Dear brothers and sisters, as disciples of the Lord we have a common responsibility to the world.We must undertake a common service; the first Christian community of Jerusalem, starting with what we already share, we must bear a powerful witness supported by reason and spiritually founded on the one God who revealed himself and speaks to us in Christ, in order to be heralds of a message that guides and illumines people today, who all too often lack clear and effective reference points.
It is therefore important to increase day by day in reciprocal love, striving to surmount those barriers between Christians that still exist; to feel that real inner unity exists among all those who follow the Lord; to collaborate as closely as possible, working together on the issues that are still unresolved; and above all, to be aware that on this journey we need the Lord’s assistance, he will have to give us even more help for, on our own, unless we “abide in him”, we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5).
Dear friends, we are once again gathered in prayer — particularly during this Week — together with all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God: let us persevere in prayer, let us be a people of prayer, entreating God to grant us the gift of unity so that his plan of salvation and reconciliation may be brought about for the whole world. Many thanks.
To special groups:
I now greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear friends, I invite you to pray for Christian unity.
May all of you who with youthful freshness, with anguished self-giving or with joyful spousal love seek to love the Lord in the daily fulfilment of your duty contribute to the edification of the Church and to her evangelizing activity. Pray, therefore, that all Christians may accept the Lord’s call to the unity of faith in his one Church.
* * *
I offer a warm welcome to the students and staff of the Bossey Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies. I thank the choir from Finland for their praise of God in song. To all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.
© Copyright 2011 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana
This item 9530 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org
The Story of the “Prayer for Protection”
The «Prayer for Protection» is known the world over, and Unity is often asked how it came into existence. James Dillet Freeman explained once in his Unity Magazine column, “Life Is a Wonder”:
Let me tell you how I wrote Unity's «Prayer for Protection.»
When World War II was raging in Europe, we received many letters and phone calls from people caught in the conflict, but for a long time we did not have a prayer for protection that we were all satisfied with. This is how one came.
Silent Unity has always written a special Christmas Prayer Service just for Silent Unity workers. And in 1940 I was asked to prepare this service. We had never before needed a prayer for protection, but in 1940 we needed one, so I wrote one to go with the Christmas service. What I wrote was a little four-line verse:
«The light of Christ directs me; The love of Christ enfolds me; The power of Christ protects me; The presence of Christ upholds me.»
I had hardly finished this Christmas service before Silent Unity came to me again and asked me to write a protection pamphlet that we could send to people, so I did. It was called His Protecting Spirit.
A Prayer for Wartime
They told me they wanted affirmative prayers for protection on the back page. Among these was the verse from the 23rd Psalm: «Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me» (Ps. 23:4 KJV).
One of the young women who worked in Silent Unity was reading my manuscript as I wrote it, and as she finished it, she came up to me and said: «Jim, if I were a woman in England and they were dropping bombs on my roof, or if I were a soldier and someone was pointing a loaded gun at me, I wouldn't want to feel I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Can't you do better than that?»
I thought, You want me to do better than the 23rd Psalm? You have to be your mind. But rolling around in the back of my mind was the little verse I had written as a prayer for protection at Christmas.
How the “Prayer for Protection” Was Written
I had written it just for Silent Unity, but now it came rolling up to the front of my mind and demanded that I pay attention to it. It enticed me to see what I could make of it.
First I took the rhymes from it. I felt it would be more universally received if it was not a rhyme. Then I changed Christ to God. It had been Christ because it was a Christmas prayer, but I felt if we were going to send it around the world, God might be more acceptable to more people. So the little prayer became:
«The light of God surrounds me, The love of God enfolds me, The power of God protects me, The presence of God watches over me.»
That is the way we first printed it. Then a line came to me that I felt would make the prayer even more powerful. The line was:
«Wherever I am, God is.»
I added it as the fifth line. The «Prayer for Protection» first appeared as a four-lined prayer in 1941, but when we reprinted it in 1943, it appeared in the form it has had ever since.
«The light of God surrounds me; The love of God enfolds me; The power of God protects me; The presence of God watches over me. Wherever I am, God is!»
God’s Message of Love
The «Prayer for Protection» came through change after change, not at all «I Am There,» when I felt that God spoke those words to me.
But what is the word of God? It is possible that no prayer Unity has ever printed has reached so many people as the «Prayer for Protection,» for not only has Unity printed it over and over, but almost every Unity church uses it to conclude its services. «I Am There,» it was carried to the moon.
On the very first flight to the moon, on Apollo 11, astronaut Col. Edwin «Buzz» Aldrin carried the Unity «Prayer for Protection» with him. He did not know me or Unity.It has appeared in hundreds of different publications that have no connection with Unity, and millions of people have carried it around on cards that fit into their pocketbooks, pockets, and billfolds. It has been translated into many languages. Sometimes it appears with me as the author. Often no author is given. Sometimes other people are named as the author.
It has been changed and changed again before it reached the form that it now has that best meets people's needs. This prayer is the product of much thought and concentration and of a mind that was willing to stay open to receive divine inspiration.
I think Unity's «Prayer for Protection» is as much God's word as «I Am There» is. Sometimes God speaks to us when we don't even know it is God.
I think God has many ways of speaking to us and not only in words that we hear with our ears. I think God speaks to our hearts and minds, and sometimes God's message has nothing to do with words. God is love and intelligence and life.
More than anything we say God is, or even imagine God is, God is the one universal Presence and Power and is seeking to express Truth and beauty and good through all of us and for all of us.
5 Prayers For Church Unity
Here are five prayers that may help you pray for church unity.
Prayer for Unity in the Community
You know that we are called into a community of believers who are to have one mind, and that is to glorify You and to make disciples of all nations, even if we’re only able to reach those in our own community.
We realized that we cannot possibly have unity in our local community, the church, unless Your Spirit has His way with us. Until we are gathered together with one mind, we cannot be as effective as a church as we can be.
Until You send Your Spirit, our carnal natures may try to dictate what we think we should do, but please Father, help us to focus on the mission that You have for each one of us, and as one body, we can do more when we are working together and not placing our own opinions above those of others, than when we work alone.Help us to see that Your desire is for us to work together as a body does in doing what You have set before us to do, and I pray for You to open doors for us to walk through, but also that we might also see what we are to do in walking through that door and recognize the work You have purposed for us to do.
Truly, we know we must be striving to live a holy life and to make Jesus Christ the center of our lives, and only then can we hope to do anything for His glory, and not ours, and in the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.
Prayer for One Purpose
Great God in heaven,
please help our church that we have one purpose in life and that is to glorify You and Your Great Son, Jesus Christ.
Nothing else matters because You have said in Your Word that we will not glorify You in our lives if we are not striving to live in obedience to You, and to love one another, which is what we need to do to show the world that our love for one another is how they will know that we are truly Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).
You have testified in Your Word that “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7), should be striving to bring You glory and to not rob You of glory for things that we do and ascribe these works to ourselves.
We must realize that we have nothing that we did not receive from You Lord (1 Cor 4:4), so if we boast, let our church boast only in You for all the marvelous things You have done for us, and that is our prayer and it is in the name of and for the glory of Jesus Christ, in Whose name we pray, Amen.
Prayer for Oneness of Mind
Blessed Father God,
You are so good to us, even though none of us deserve Your goodness (Rom 3:10-12), and that You alone are good, and so let us join together in one mind for one express purpose and that is to proclaim Your goodness to those who do not yet know You. Oh, God, that they would know You so that You might extend Your grace to them (James 4:6) that they might be saved.
Please help us take heed to Jesus’ Words in praying that we might be one, praying “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11), and that should be our prayer too Father.Let us be of one mind and have one purpose and that is to glorify You and to tell others that there is only one way that they might be saved, and that is through the Person and work of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
Let us join hands and hearts in this single purpose for us to all have one mind and a mind that is focused on You for Your work that You have prepared beforehand for us to do (Eph 2:10), and it is for this that we pray in the precious name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Prayer for Mission
Holy God, most reverenced above all,
Please help us to focus on the mission You have given us all, and that mission is to reach the lost and to make disciples of all with whom we come into contact, and to teach them the same things that You taught Your disciples (Matt 28:19-20) and by their writings in Your Word, that we may be taught these very same things.
Oh Lord, Your Word stands forever, so let us put feet on our faith in doing what You have commanded us to do, and that is to help the poor, the widows and orphans (James 1:27), but also to visit the sick and those in prison, and to welcome into the family those who are strangers among us (Matt 25:34-35), because we understand that what we do for the least of these, we are really doing it for You (Matt 25:40), but also what we don’t do for others, we are not doing for You Lord (Matt 25:45). I know You take these marching orders seriously, so let us invest our lives into doing what You have commanded us to do, but always doing it for Your glory and not ours, and in the precious name of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Prayer for the Body
God, my Father,
You have placed each one of us in the Body of Christ, the church, as it has pleased You and not us. Help us to recognize that it is You Who have organized Your church and have placed each one of us exactly where we need to be to do Your work and for Your glory.
If we can respect those who some might consider to be in a less-than-honorable position, then we can understand that even those who seem to be less in the body are actually those who are more honorable in Your eyes, just as Paul said that the “parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty” (1st Cor 12:23). We know that You have no greater respect or regard for one person over another, so help us to not have a higher regard for some and not for others (Acts 10:34), and for what we ourselves have been called to do for You. This is all about You Lord and not about us, so help us to prioritize our calling within the body and to respect all members as the same, as You also do, and in the name above all names, Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen.
Perhaps you could comment by giving us a much better prayer than the ones that I have written from the heart. There is such importance in our prayers and in particular, our corporate prayers as we send our requests to God through Jesus Christ.
May we be of one mind, one purpose, having one mission, and for our community of believers to all be in agreement in beseeching Your help in doing what you’ve called us to do.
That is to reach the lost, glorify You in our lives, and to show the world what the love of God truly looks in the hopes that they might be drawn to You and place their trust in You so that they too might be saved.
Read more about prayer here: Different Types of Prayer in the Bible
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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as: Church, church unity, community, corporate prayer, mission, Prayers, purpose
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Maintain the Unity of the Spirit
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.
The Great Calling of a District Court Judge
Four years ago one of our Hennepin District Court judges was censured for ten engagements with a 26-year-old prostitute. Last week another judge was removed from office for buying sex from fifteen male prostitutes.
One of our State Supreme Court Justices had to stay the decision last week because he is under investigation by the board of standards for ethical violations. It was not a good week for the Minnesota judiciary. The events go a long way to encourage citizen suspicions of a lot of rottenness in our whole system.
But what I want to illustrate from this is the meaning of the word worthy. We say, «The man proved to be unworthy of his judgeship.» Or: «He was living unworthily of his high office.» What I mean when I say this is that the office of Hennepin District Court Judge merits a higher level of integrity.The position is worthy of greater moral vigilance and higher character. The judgeship deserves a better man.
Note that even though I said, «The man proved unworthy of his office,» what I am focusing on is the worth of the office not the man. I am saying that the value of the office should have kept the man from desecrating it.
The Supreme Court decision last week said, «By disclosing his identity and his judicial position to the prostitutes, moreover, he made even greater the risk of discredit to himself and the judiciary.
» In other words, the honor and value of his position in the judiciary should have been worth so much to him that he would not dare bring it into disrepute. The greatness of his calling should have constrained him to lead a life worthy of his call.
But it didn't, and now the public has much less regard not only for him, but worse, for the Hennepin County District Court.
The Far Greater Calling of Christians
In Ephesians 4:1 Paul urges us Christians «to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.» This does not mean that we should try to deserve our place in God's favor.
It means that we should recognize how much our place in God's favor deserves from us. The focus is not on our worth but on the worth of our calling.
If we go back to chapters 1 through 3, we can catch a glimpse of the calling Paul means.
- 1:4, God chose us for himself before the world was created.
- 1:5, he predestined us to be his children—and that means heirs of all our Father owns!
- 1:7, he sent Christ to atone for all our trespasses.
- 1:13, he sealed us with his Holy Spirit to preserve us forever.
- 2:7, he promises to spend an eternity increasing our joy in the immeasurable riches of his grace.
- 3:10, he has given us the mission as a church to display his wisdom, even to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Or as 1:12 says, we are «destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.»
In other words, the privilege and purpose of our Christian calling is greater than the privilege and purpose of a Hennepin County District Court Judgeship. The judgeship is a calling from man; our calling is from God.
The judgeship attains status and (we would hope) a sense of worthy achievement; our calling attains divine sonship and we become beneficiaries of all that God owns. The judgeship will last a couple decades; our calling will last for ever.
If, as the Supreme Court said last week, the honor and privilege of being a District Court Judge should give the judge a passion for integrity, then how much more should the honor and privilege of being made a Christian shape our lives!
Living a Life Worthy of Our Calling
In Ephesians 4:3 the way to lead a life worthy of our calling is to «maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
» Verse 2 tells us how to maintain spiritual unity: «With all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love.
» But before we look at how to maintain the unity of the Spirit in verse 2, we need to make sure we know what it is. What is the kind of unity that will bring honor and credit to our high calling?
What Is the Unity of the Spirit?
Part of the answer is found in verses 11–13. Here Paul says that Christ has given to the church «some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.»
A Reality to Be Maintained and a Goal to Be Attained
One difference between verse 3 and verse 13 is that in verse 3 we are told to maintain unity but in verse 13 we are told to attain unity. In verse 3 it is a reality to be maintained.
In verse 13 it is a goal to be attained. The reason for this is not that there are two kinds of Christian unity but that Christian unity has in one sense already been accomplished and in another sense hasn't.
Look at Ephesians 2:13–16:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances that he might create in himself a new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.
This text shows that, in a decisive act of atonement and reconciliation, Christ has already made us one. What he has accomplished at Calvary we should maintain by the Spirit. But in another sense the unity Christ purchased and guaranteed with his blood must now be lived out and brought to full expression in the life of the church. In this sense it is a goal to be attained.
Three Components of Christian Unity
So if the same basic unity is spoken of in 2:13–16 and 4:3 and 4:13, then we can now define it. Christian unity involves three things that we should have in common. Ephesians 4:13 speaks of a «unity of . . . the knowledge of the Son of God.» That is our common convictions about Christ.That verse also speaks of a «unity of faith.» That is our common confidence in Christ. And Ephesians 2:14 speaks of the end of hostility. When hostility is replaced with love, we have a common care for each other.
So I would sum up Christian unity from Ephesians 2–4 as having common convictions about Christ, common confidence in Christ, and common care for each other.
Flowing from the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 4:3 calls this the unity of the Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit who frees our hearts from irrational, self-defensive prejudices so that we are willing to own up to true convictions about Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14–16).
It's the Holy Spirit who enables us to have faith in Christ and to cry out to God with confidence, «Abba, Father» (Romans 8:15–16). And it is the Holy Spirit who bears the fruit of love in our lives and gives us a common care for each other (Galatians 5:22).
So our common convictions and confidence and care are all from the Holy Spirit. Therefore Paul calls it the «unity of the Spirit» (v. 3).
Two Stages of Love on the Way to This Unity
Now when we go back to verse 2 to see how we maintain this unity, we see two stages of love. Neither of these stages is natural to human nature. Both are the result of the work of the Spirit in our lives. Let's look at each one briefly.
1. Lowliness and Meekness
The first stage of love that leads to unity is lowliness and meekness. «Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called in all lowliness and meekness.» The knowledge of our high calling should make us feel very lowly.
Christian lowliness is a disposition to think lowly of ourselves and highly of Christ. Christian meekness is the demeanor of a person with this disposition. Precisely because he has been granted to know God, the Christian man is a man of lowliness.He regards his knowledge as small and lowly because he has seen the omniscient God. He regards his strength as small and lowly because he has seen the omnipotent God. He regards his righteousness as small and lowly because he has seen the Holy One of Israel.
And since the Christian is oriented on God and not man, he is not puffed up by any little superiority he may have over other humans. If an ant measures himself by the IDS tower, he will not boast over the flea.
Christian lowliness makes a person feel awkward receiving praise. It makes a person recoil from the contemporary counsel of self-assertiveness and self-esteem and self-confidence. The great delight of the lowly Christian is to enjoy the free, unmerited mercy of God. All his longings are satisfied in God. God is the one he esteems.
God is his confidence. God is the one who will assert himself someday to vindicate the poor in spirit and to make the last first. In the meantime, the man of lowliness is the servant of all.
This is the first stage of love, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit opening our eyes to see the majesty of God's holiness and the minuteness of ourselves.
2. Patience and Forbearance
The second stage of love results from the first. It is called patience or long-suffering. «Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience.» Lowliness is the prerequisite of patience. Haughty people are not patient.
The more highly you think of yourself the more quickly you will think you should be served.
«Who do they think they are to keep me waiting this!» But if you have a disposition of lowliness, it won't feel so inappropriate when you are not treated a dignitary and when the fruits of your labors are slow in coming.
If you have seen the majesty of God's holiness, you know your own minuteness and sinfulness, and you don't presume to deserve special treatment. And if you have seen the magnificence of God's grace, you know he will give you the strength to wait and will turn all your delays into strategic maneuvers of victory.Another way of describing the results of lowliness is with the term forbearance. «Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love.» Another word for «forbearing» is «enduring.» Just meekness is the demeanor of lowliness, endurance is the demeanor of patience.
I am so glad Paul said we must endure one another. This frees me from the hypocritical need to think I, or anyone else in the church, am perfect. Perfect people don't need to be endured or forgiven (Colossians 3:13). But we do, often. Paul is not naïve.
He knows that there are a few people at Bethlehem who are grumpy or critical or unreliable or finicky. He knows the pastor has gaping holes in the fabric of his sanctification.
So his counsel here is not how perfect people can live together in unity, but how real, imperfect Conference Baptists can maintain the unity of the Spirit, namely, by enduring each other in love.
Preserving Common Care for Each Other
The focus in verses 2 and 3 is not so much on how to maintain our common convictions or our common confidence. Those are assumed as a basis, and the focus is on how a group of imperfect people can preserve a common care for each other.
How can you keep on caring about a person who doesn't you? Or a person who s music you don't ? Or a person who opposes you and wants to frustrate your dreams? How do you maintain the unity of the Spirit with them instead of becoming hostile and cold? Paul's answer: be lowly in spirit so that you can patiently endure their differences and their sins. A man of lowliness is keenly aware of the immensity of his debt toward God and how he has dishonored God through unbelief and disobedience. He is also keenly aware of God's amazing grace that saved a wretch him.
Therefore, the man of lowliness cannot easily or quickly retaliate when he is wronged.
He knows that before God he doesn't deserve anything better, and he knows that if he returns evil for evil, he would be saying to God, «You were a fool for being patient with me and enduring my sin and returning good for my evil.
» And that would bring far more disgrace and discredit upon our high calling than homosexual prostitution brought upon the Hennepin County District Court last week.
Therefore, let's not be puffed up but lowly and meek. And let's not be impatient or resentful, but long-suffering and forgiving. Then the unity that Christ died to create will become real in our church, and we will not bring any disrepute upon the great God who called us into his kingdom and glory.
Lessons of Unity and Order in Prayer
I have never been to Hajj.
I have heard amazing stories of rebirth of faith and I have heard horror stories of corruption from people who have completed this pillar of Islam.
The thought of hajj awakens extreme feelings in me. Mostly terrifying feelings.
When I reflect on these feelings of anxiety and fear, I come to the conclusion that at the root of my fear is a distrust of my fellow brothers and sisters–a deeply sad realization.
I have heard of communities getting into fist fights and splitting because some people are pushing to attain power for the sake of power.
And I have seen organizations ripped apart because everyone wants their own way and shouting the loudest becomes more important than cooperation. I have seen corruption and lack of manners all too often in the ummah. The tragedy at hajj seems to highlight this defect.
We’ve all learned good manners and correct behavior as children in school and at home. But somehow we lose sight of manners and morals as adults or even think it is a naive way to act in today’s dog eat dog world.But each day when we join together with our families in our homes or with our community in our mosques, we are demonstrating that we can act with manners and have order if only in prayer.
In congregation prayer, Muslims are acting as individuals and a unit at once. If we just take a look at how this is achieved, we can translate this team exercise found in prayer into order in our everyday lives and order in our organizations to create good manners and unity.
One Direction (No, not the Band)
Imagine if everyone prayed in a different direction.
Billions of Muslims turn their faces towards to the direction of the Ka’bah five times a day. This directionality is known as the qiblah, a direction that is one, singular, reminding us that there is one God, we are one ummah and that we are all on the same path back to Him.
If we remember this directionality and goal-oriented thinking in our communities and organizations, we can have better unity.
Instead we often can only see the small picture and lose sight of the direction in which we should all be traveling, toward Allah, seeking His pleasure, in worship of Him alone as one community.
This kind of distraction from our ultimate goal as an ummah is praying in congregation and getting distracted by a bug, following behind it, and forgetting that you are in prayer.
The well-known hadith:
The Prophet was asked:
“It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?”
Help your brother face the right direction in the path to Allah and in prayer, insuring that we keep each other on track, and doing so with kindness.
Time, a Non-Renewable Resource
Imagine if everyone came to prayer at the mosques whenever they pleased.
As Muslims, we keep our eye on the clock, never losing track of the time, so that we can perform our prayers in their appropriate times.
The mosque sets a time for each of the five daily prayers for those who wish to pray in congregation. And for the most part, we understand the importance of punctuality in prayer.
Praying a prayer outside of its time limit it is not acceptable. Coming to congregational prayer late means you will have missed it.But when it comes to other areas of our lives and in the organizations within our communities, we tend to forget the importance of punctuality.
Time is a non-renewable resource and we never know how much of it we have, but we do know it is coming to an end for each of us.
Being foolish with time or making others wait for you is knowing there is a drought coming, so you turn your faucet on and let it all go down the drain.
Being perpetually late sends the message that we are not only ungrateful to Allah for the time He has given us, we are also headless about stealing someone else’s time.
But we can correct this bad behavior and lack of consideration for others by applying our punctuality for prayer to all engagements, knowing that everyone’s time is precious, and never wasting a drop of time.
Everyone Wants to Lead
Imagine if everyone in the lines to pray was fighting to lead.
As Muslims when we pray in congregation, we know when to bow in prayer because the imam bows. And we know when to prostrate when the imam of the prayer prostrates. We only know to stand when the one leading the prayer does so. And we understand the importance of unity in following the leader in our prayer.
But when it comes to all other activities, we all try to lead. We have a very human tendency to want to be on top without knowing that a good leader is really just a servant to his or her people.
The leadership role is not for self-glorification or to attain power. Those who are most aware of this know that to be a good leader you must inspire love in your followers and love your followers in return.Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is our example in all things. He was the best in manners and the best in leadership. He said:
We cannot all lead, we cannot all be the Prophet Muhammad was in his leadership role. Most of us are not capable of being humble when given power, me included.
We need to find good leaders who try their best to emulate the Prophet’s example, understanding that leadership is a heavy responsibility. And then we can look to our prayer to teach us how to be better supporters instead of always jockeying for a leadership role.
One of the biggest problems in our ummah is that we do not have solidarity. We are constantly trampling over one another, either literally or metaphorically. This is a great tragedy and can even be seen at the most fundamental levels of our organizations and communities.
We can take a lesson from our prayer to turn this division into unity by always trying to move toward the same goals; keeping on track in or schedules; and respecting a good leader.