Here are five prayers that may help you pray for church unity.
Table of contents
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 like 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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A Prayer for Unity in Our Church Family
Psalm 133, I Corinthians 13
Reflections of the Heart:
“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
I Corinthians 1:10
Our Father, we thank You for our Church Family. Thank You for calling each of us to serve Your Kingdom through this wonderful church. Thank You for using our individual gifts and talents to manifest Your Kingdom here on earth as it already is in heaven. Lord, we are thankful for the freedom to worship You, our God. Thank You for Your bountiful blessings. Thank You for increasing Your presence, power, anointing, and abundance in our Church Family. You are great and greatly to be praised. You are to be feared above all gods. The earth is Yours and everything in it; the world and all its people belong to You. You laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths. Lord, no pagan god is like You! None can do what You do.
Loving Father, we declare that we will love You with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. As a Church Family, we confess that we will love one another, as ourselves. As Your children, we proclaim that we have all put on Christ, like putting on new clothes and we will walk in unity and love with one another. It is because of this love that we exhibit for each other that people will know that we are Your disciples. Your Word tells us that if we love You, we must also love our Christian brothers and sisters, too. Therefore, we declare that we will not look out only for our own interests, but we take an interest in each other’s needs. We declare that we will live in harmony with each other and resist division. We will be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. We declare that as a Church Family we will turn away from evil, and do good; we will search for peace and work to maintain it. We confess that we will encourage and build each other up. Above all things, we decree that we will put on love which is the bond of perfection.
Holy Spirit, show me how I can promote unity within our Church Family today by:
Holy Spirit, we ask You to fill us with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Help us to walk worthy and fully pleasing before You. As a Church Family, help us to be fruitful in every good work and to increase in Your knowledge. Teach us how to live together in unity. Walk us through the steps of rebuilding loving fellowship between us. Help us to continue to obey Your command to “love our neighbor as ourselves” so that we will not self-destruct by backbiting and devouring one another. Give us a willing heart to allow You to guide our lives so that not do what our sinful nature craves. Show our leaders how to mend the broken relationships and restore balance to our Church Family. Please strengthen us and help us to represent Your Kingdom in the earth. Holy Spirit, synchronize the heart of every church member and unify our spirits to receive and submit to the vision for our church. Please empower us to give of our talents, gifts and resources to manifest Kingdom change in our city.
Merciful Father, forgive our many sins. We admit that at times we have sinned against you and against one another. Forgive us for holding onto grudges and for seeking vengeance upon our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Forgive us for leaning toward our own understanding and failing to acknowledge You in all our ways. Forgive those amongst us who are being false witnesses, pouring out lies and sowing discord in our Church family. Forgive those of us who have stood by passively allowing sin and deception to go unaddressed. Forgive us for not heeding the warnings of the Holy Spirit and being hesitant to obey Your commands. Lord, forgive me for (list any sins that You have committed). Holy Spirit, remind our Church Family of those they need to forgive and help them to be quick to forgive. Help us to release past and present offenses and to be willing to forgive one another just as God has forgiven us. As for me, Holy Spirit, bring to my remembrance those I need to forgive. (Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to show You names or faces of people that You may need to forgive. As He shows You, say aloud, “I forgive name of person(s).” Now, trust the Lord to heal any wounds in Your soul caused by unforgiveness.)
Noble Father, as a Church Family, help us not to yield to temptation; but deliver us from the evil one.
Sovereign King, You are the visible image of the invisible God. You existed before anything was created and You are supreme over all creation. Through You, everything was created in the heavenly realms and on earth. You made the visible as well as invisible things. Thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities in the unseen world were all created through You and for You. You existed before anything else and You hold all creation together! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture References for the Written Text: Matthew 6:10, Psalm 96:4, Psalm 24:1-2, Psalm 86:8, Mark 12:30-31, Galatians 3:27, John 13:35, I John 4:21, Philippians 2:4, I Corinthians 1:10, Psalm 34:14, I Thessalonians 5:11, Colossians 3:14, Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 6:19, Matthew 6:13, I Timothy 6:15-16
Today I will trust God to:
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5.26-27)
Lord, grant that I may behold your church as you do
not just this beautiful church, pure and glorious,
which is with you and sings your victory.
But above all the real and imperfect church
the one in which I live, suffer and grow
the one which one day will accompany me on my way to you
Yes, Lord, as you are risen and active,
I continue to discover the signs of your beauty.
You alone are holy
and you share your holiness with us
if we receive your Word and live out our baptism.
So grant that I may recognise your footsteps
in the life of every church or small church group.
May I no longer belong to myself
but to you, who have loved me and given yourself for me
so that in turn, I may live for you and give myself to others.
(Rev. Martin Hoegger,
Reformed Church of the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland)
Jesus Prays for the Church (5)
“Praying for Unity” John 17:11-23
A little girl was saying her prayers. “Dear God,” she said, “I bet it is very hard for you to love everybody in our church all the time. There are only four people in our family, & I can never do it.” Yes, it is hard enough getting along with all our family members all the time, so not surprisingly in the bigger, wider family of the church, there are many occasions when our unity & harmony come under strain. And yet unity is something we desperately need as Christians living as we do in a hostile world, & it is something Jesus prays for us in John 17.
1. Jesus Prays for Unity – Who is it for?
John 17 records Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, prayed the night before His crucifixion. As we have already seen in previous messages in this series, He prays many things for them – for things such as truth, holiness, joy & mission. Today, we see Him praying for unity. The phrase “that they may be one” comes three times in Jesus’ prayer – in vrs.11, 21 & 22. Then in v.23, Jesus prays, “May they be brought to complete unity.”
We know Jesus is thinking specifically of His disciples for in v.11, He says to His Father, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world.” The “they” are the disciples, the apostles. Jesus goes on in v.11, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus prays that His disciples will be one, united in heart & mind.
Starting in v.20, however, we find Jesus praying, not just for those eleven disciples, but for others also. Who are they? “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” (v.20) Jesus is praying for all those who down through the centuries would believe the message passed on by those early apostles. It includes believers from every generation & from every corner of the globe. It includes each one of us who believes, all who belong to the worldwide, universal Church of Jesus Christ. What incredible diversity! It includes Old Testament believers & it includes Christians from the first century, the second century & every century since. It includes people from every nation & every ethnic group. It includes male & female, young & old, rich & poor, people from every kind of background imaginable – all belonging to Jesus Christ.
As we continue in v.21 we see what Jesus prays for all of us. He prays, “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me & I am in you.” So then, for our second point, let us think about the nature of the unity for which Jesus prays.
2. Jesus Prays for Unity – What is it?
Jesus is praying for His followers, not for people in general. However, it is good to remember that all humans have a certain unity. We are united in the sense that we are all created & were made in God’s image, for the Bible says in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, & let them rule …over all the earth.’” People are totally different to animals. We are a special creation & unlike any animal, we have an in-built awareness of spiritual realities. The Bible also teaches us that because of sin, God’s image in us has been defaced, spoiled, damaged. Despite this, every human being is still precious in God’s sight. All have a dignity & a value regardless of their race, language, religious background, age, gender, education, or status. As Christians we are to treat other human beings, whether they share our faith or not, with respect, kindness, fairness, & love, just as we would like them to treat us.
But in praying for unity, Jesus is praying for something much deeper than the unity we share with all other human beings. Christian unity is based not on creation but on redemption. It is based on the fellowship we enjoy with all true believers who like us have experienced God’s forgiveness & who have been given eternal life. As Jesus prays in John 17:3, “…this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, & Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Christian unity can only be experienced by true believers, those who have come to know the Father & the Son through the Holy Spirit.
Each one of us is born into a family. My father Alec & my mother Kath had five sons. I am the oldest. My youngest brother Chris thinks Mum & Dad got better at producing boys the more boys they had, so he claims that he is by far the most handsome, the most intelligent & in every way the best son of all of us. Of course, I am happy to say he is only joking. However what is true about all five of us is that we belong to the Alec Anderson family. We have the same parents.
All true Christians are united in that we are all born into the family of God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw this truth when we were studying Ephesians. Jews & Gentiles become “one in Christ”. Before coming to know Him, we were “…excluded from citizenship” & were “…foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope & without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12) But now, we “…have been brought near through the blood of Christ” & He has destroyed “…the dividing wall of hostility.” (vrs 13 & 14) Together “…through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (v.18) And in Him we “…are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (v.22) Yes, we are one in the Spirit. He dwells within us, both individually & as the family of God.
This is the unity that binds all true believers together. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, other believers are your brothers & sisters in Christ.
This unity is not just a matter of being friendly, having fellowship after church, being on a committee or working on projects together – it is something far deeper. As Jesus prays in v.11, “…that they may be one as we are one” & in v.21, “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me & I am in you.” Our unity as believers is actually related to the unity that exists between the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity – three in one, one in three. Jesus is praying that the church’s unity may be a unity just like the unity between Father, Son & Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual oneness – as Michael Cassidy puts it, “…a unity of mind, purpose, relatedness, & love.”
In the Bible, the unity of believers is also likened to a body. The human body consists of many different parts, & each part has its own special function, yet each part is joined to the rest of the body in perfect unity. Your fingers are not separate from your hands, & your hands are not separate from your arms, & your arms from the rest of your body. No, the body is a unity. It is one body, with many parts, but each part belongs to the whole.
3. Jesus Prays for Unity – How is it hindered?
Unity cannot be separated from truth. The two go hand in hand. In v.17 Jesus had already prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” To enjoy true Christian unity we must be in agreement about the basics of our faith. A person may call themselves a Christian but if they deny the basic doctrines of the faith, such as the uniqueness & deity of Christ & the inspiration & authority of the Bible, then there can be no unity. Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves Christians, but if you look carefully into what they believe & teach, they certainly are not Christians for they deny basic Biblical truths. They may be nice, good people, but they are not Christians. There are many cults that falsely claim to be Christian.
Sadly, too, of course there are people who have grown up in the church & may even be leaders in the church, who have never experienced the new birth. They may know a lot about Jesus & the Bible, but it is simply head knowledge. They are ‘nominal’ Christians, that is, ‘Christians in name’, but have not experienced the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. A born-again believer cannot experience true unity of heart & mind with those who are only ‘nominal’ Christians.
Far more serious of course is when people, claiming to be Christians, bring false doctrines into the church. In Galatians 1:9, Paul speaks out strongly saying, “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.” Paul was warning about those who were saying Gentiles had to be circumcised & follow Jewish customs if they wanted to be saved. Paul says no, salvation is by grace alone, through faith. Paul also warned the elders in the church in Ephesus, that “fierce wolves …not sparing the flock” will come in “from among your own selves” (in other words from people calling themselves Christians) who will speak “perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29 & 30) There can be no unity or compromise with such people.
So Christian unity is based upon truth, but it is also based upon godly behaviour. In the book of Revelation in the letters to the seven churches, Jesus warns about those who tolerate immorality in the church. Paul too, in his letter to the church in Corinth, says, “…you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.” (1 Corinthians 5:11) Paul is speaking of those who call themselves Christians but who do not live like Christians. He does not mean that we never talk to such people or never help them, no – but he is saying we cannot treat them as if they are true believers.
Another major hindrance to unity in the church is when believers, yes true believers, live according to the desires of their old sinful nature rather than according to the Spirit. When this happens we see things like greed, pride, power grabbing, selfishness, impatience, self-pity, gossip, criticism, anger etc. You can be sure these things very quickly undermine our unity.
Praise the Lord, when we walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, when we hold sincerely to the truth of God’s Word & when from the heart we seek to live a life pleasing to God, we will experience unity.
This does not mean there is no room for differences of opinion among Christians. Such differences, if regarding non-essentials, certainly need not spoil or break our unity. They may even strengthen it! Sadly, however, when we major on minor things, we very easily break the unity. This happens when we think we are always right & those who think differently must be wrong. Rather, we need to admit that our knowledge of the Bible & our Christian experience may not be perfect or complete. We all have blind spots. We need humility & a willingness to learn from others. It is so sad when true believers divide over petty differences, over non-essentials, over matters of interpretation, not issues of real importance.
Those, for example, who believe that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, should not accuse fellow believers who believe the universe may be millions of years old, of being heretics & of corrupting the gospel. If both groups love the Lord & believe the Bible is the Word of God – then we should stop attacking each other & start behaving like Christians. Maybe then the world will see our unity & want to know about our Creator, the One who made the universe, regardless of whether it is young or old.
I could mention several other examples of what could be called non-essentials. The problem is not having different opinions. The problem is allowing those differences to break our unity in the Lord. When we do have different opinions we must not attack those who think differently. Rather, we should ask the Lord to bless them & we should give thanks for His work in their lives too.
Satan loves it when Christians split hairs – that is, when we argue over very small things. First we split hairs – then we split churches. Our unity as believers needs to be treasured & cultivated, not taken for granted. No wonder Jesus prays in v.23, “May they be brought to complete unity.”
So now we come to our final point:
4. Jesus Prays for Unity – Why is it so important?
It is important, of course, because the life & vitality of the Church depends upon it & so does the effectiveness of our witness in the world. Michael Cassidy gives wonderful illustrations from his experience as an evangelist of the importance of Christians working together. He writes, “My testimony on the basis of some fifty years of interdenominational ministry in Africa is that our missions & evangelistic campaigns were at their best & most effective when both our team & the local churches …had a deep unity, fellowship, & togetherness.”
The same is true of the witness of an individual church. When we live & work together in love & unity, despite all our differences, people are attracted to the gospel. They feel the love. They know the Lord is working among us, & it attracts them. However, when we are not united, when we form cliques & factions & when we criticise & attack one another, the opposite happens. God’s work suffers. The church becomes weak.
Satan knows this & is out to bring division & disunity. And so we need the protection of the power of the Name of Jesus. Let us ask the Lord to continue to protect the unity of our church. Let us pray that He will make & keep us one. Let us pray that He will destroy all the works of the enemy.
What is the result of this unity? Jesus prays in v.21, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” There it is. When the world sees love & unity in the church, the world cannot deny that God is with us. Not everyone will believe, but many will. They will come to see that Jesus is who He claimed to be.
In v 23 Jesus says, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me & have loved them as you have loved me.” As Michael Cassidy says, “…our unity not only commends the gospel, it proclaims it. Our unity does not just support our witness, it is our witness.” Michael tells of a major all-Africa Christian Leadership Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1976. There were Christian leaders there from 49 out of the 51 countries of Africa. Being in the days of apartheid in South Africa, one issue causing obvious tension was the question of race. Michael, a white person from South Africa, describes what happened when it was his turn to speak. He was introduced by Ugandan Anglican Bishop Festo Kivengere, his close colleague & friend, & in front of everyone, Bishop Festo gave Michael “a great hug of affection & affirmation.” That act of love & unity broken down all kinds of barriers & was a highlight of the conference.
I also remember meeting Festo Kivengere. It was in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland. I introduced myself as a brother from Rhodesia – it was in the days before Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. Bishop Kivengere warmly shook my hand & said, “Our hearts beat together, brother!”
When the world sees this kind of love & unity across racial & other barriers it is a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel. This is another reason why I love our church. Let us treasure our unity & work hard to deepen it, more & more. And let us be encouraged, for Jesus is praying for us to be one!
Michael Cassidy, The Church Jesus Prayed For, Monarch, Oxford, 2012, pg. 276
Ibid, pg. 280
Ibid, pg. 279