At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (see John 17.21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The World Council of Churches commemoration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity traditionally runs from January 18 through to January 25 (northern hemisphere, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul) and around Pentecost (southern hemisphere), which is also a symbolic date for unity. It is usually between the Day of Ascension and Day of Pentecost.
The 2021 theme is “Abide in My Love…You Shall Bear Much Fruit.” It was discerned by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland and finds its origins in the Gospel of John (cf. John 15:1-17). More information and links to resources here. Resource booklet here.The Week of Prayer brings together Christians from diverse confessions and backgrounds from around the world, who organize special ecumenical worships, prayer services and events.
Since 1968, the liturgical and biblical material for the annual week of prayer has been jointly coordinated by the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission and the Roman Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).
“The church is the place where social and economic barriers are being broken down in demonstration of the reconciling power of the Gospel. That is why the disunity of the church is a denial of the Gospel and a sign not of God’s grace but of God’s judgment. A fragmented and divided church has no message for a fragmented and divided world.”
(Source: Vinoth Ramachandra)
Prayer for Unity
Father of all who live in the Spirit,
you have brought unity through your Son Jesus Christ:
help all who profess his name to show in their lives,
in their worship,
and their evangelism
that oneness which springs from the truth
as it is found in Jesus,
and fill your church with the desire
both to seek and find that unity
throughout the world; in his name. Amen.
(Michael Saward, and posted on The Jubilate Group website)
Prayer for Unity
“My prayer for all of them is that they will be one….
Then the world will know that you sent me
and will understand that you love them
as much as you love me.” John 17:21, 23
O God, we are one with you.
You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
you dwell in us.
Help us to preserve this openness
and to fight for it with all our hearts.
Help us to realize that there can be no understanding
where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely,
we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you,
and we love you with our whole being,
because our being is in your being,
our spirit is rooted in your spirit.
Fill us then with love,
and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways,
united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world,
and makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome.
Love is victorious.
(Thomas Merton (1915-1968))
Confession (1 Corinthians 1:9-18)
God, forgive your church,
for we have become divided;
in large ways and small
your church has quarreled
and split from one another;
your church has forgotten
the call to unity, to
your purpose of peace and love;
your church has tried
to be clever and popular,
when your Way is foolish,
disturbs: forgive us,
again, make us one.
God is faithful,
God is calling,
listen, church of God:
you are forgiven.
Be at peace.
Be peace. Amen.
(Source: Rev Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)
Prayer for Unity Amidst Diversity
God of all creation
who called every being into life
who is mindful of humankind in all its diversity
who embodies us with dignity,
granting different gifts and talents to shape life in this world
we ask for your Spirit to unite us
where we face lack of understanding and disunity
in our churches, in our communities, in our countries.
And in silence we lay before you the burdens of our hearts.
We ask for your Spirit to unite us
in the face of the conflicts, hatred and violation of life
experienced in so many regions of the earth
and in silence we bring to you the pain of the victims.
We ask for your Spirit to unite us
wherever fear prevents us from caring for our neighbour,
from meeting people of different ethnicities, cultures
and faith communities with respect
and in silence we bring to you the brokenness of human relationships.
God of all creation,
in Christ we are reconciled,
and so we ask for your uniting Spirit
to help us to overcome all our divisions
that we may live in peace.
(Source: Christian Aid website)
(inspired by John 17:21, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18)
My fellow servants, we are one.
The bread we share makes us one.
The cup we pour makes us one.
Even as our dearest sisters and brothers
come and go from us, we are one.
Even as we scatter from this place
to so many diverse pursuits
throughout this city, this state, this globe,
we are one.
With gratitude we share the Table.
With gratitude we depart.
With gratitude we release one another,
trusting in the One
Who makes us one.
Go in peace.
(Paul Randall, and posted on Ecclesia)
One in Love, We Meet Together (Tune: ‘Hyfrydol’ 87 87D)
One in love, we meet together,
one in time, and never apart.
We in flesh as brother, sister,
makes us one in mind and heart.
All incarnate, we would offer,
all we most sincerely prize,
Learning though traditions differ
how they join to make us wise.
One in outlook, always searching,
not to bind in common creed,
As a people, be more ready
to respond to other’s need.
Here we are so finely fashioned,
understanding, here to serve,
Never narrow in compassion,
empathy without reserve.
As in Christ, may we discover
that to give is to receive,
That in God the good is present,
ever, always we perceive.
Not by chance the world’s creation,
not by chance was life begun,
God is love and our vocation
is to love ‘til love has won.
(Adapted by Betty Van Till/3C Exchange)
O God, In Christ You Call Us
Tune: AURELIA 220.127.116.11 D (“The Church’s One Foundation”)
O God, in Christ you call us to witness to your grace —
To share the life you give us in every time and place.
So many things divide us — yet we are not our own;
For we belong to Jesus who prayed, “May they be one.”
In Christ is our salvation; in him you’ve set us free —
We make this proclamation in bold humility.
Your image is in others who follow different ways;
Together, seeking justice, we offer you our praise.
In Christ, we’re bound together; in him we find your peace.
Yet even as we gather, the wounds of war increase.
Where terror brings division, God, make us brave to say
Our churches share a vision of Jesus’ peaceful way.
In Christ, the poor and hungry are shown they matter, too —
And where your church has plenty, you give us work to do.
Now may we put in practice the faith that we declare,
Seek economic justice, and find new ways to share.
In Christ, you bless creation and show this planet’s worth;
May every congregation find ways to tend the earth.
Now fill us with your Spirit, that we, as one, may be
A faithful, loving witness to all humanity.
This hymn was originally written for the Centennial Ecumenical Gathering and General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service meeting November 9-11, 2010 in New Orleans based on the theme of the assembly: “Witnesses of These Things: Ecumenical Engagement in a New Era.”
Biblical References: Luke 24:48; John 17:21; Luke 10:36-37; Matthew 5:9; Luke 4:16-19; John 3:16
Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864 (“The Church’s One Foundation”)
Text: Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. email@example.com www.carolynshymns.com
Hymn Use Permission: Free use of this hymn is given to any congregation that supports the ecumenical work of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and/or Church World Service (or equivalent in other countries)
2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity resource WPCU2015en
2020 Week of Prayer theme, “They showed us unusual kindness…” was inspired by Acts 28:2 and draws on the story of Paul finding safety in Malta after a shipwreck.
WoPCU 2020 Worship Service resource (Word Doc)
WoPCU Sermon Notes (PDF) WoPCu Poster (PDF) WoPCU Prayer Cards (PDF)