The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022
January 18th to 25th
We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him.
One of the greatest obstacles to the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the division between Christians. History has left us with various Christian communities, very often burdened with issues that belong to another time. For over a hundred years the historical Christian denominations and churches have set aside a week every year, called a “Week of Prayer For Christian Unity” to resolve this embarrassing discord.
In the northern hemisphere, this week runs from January 18th to 25th ending with the feast of St Paul. The date differs in other areas. The official purpose is “to express the degree of communion which the churches have already reached, and to pray together for the full unity which is Christ’s will”. Every year the resource material for this week is prepared by an ecumenical group from different geographical areas. It usually reflects the particular experience of the Christian life in that location. It is worthwhile to remember that this particular initiative concerns Christians only.
This year the material for prayer has been prepared by the Middle East Council of Churches, based in Beirut. Their proposed theme is We saw the star in the east and we have come to worship Him. This is a well-known line from the Christmas story, Chapter 2, Verse 2, of Matthew’s Gospel. The first twelve verses of that same chapter form the basis for the week’s prayer.
It goes without saying that no one is better qualified to look at today’s world through the prism of the birth of Jesus than the Middle Eastern Christians. The parallels with that time are stark. Today we have refugees, displacement, cruelty to children, autocratic rulers, political divisions – all echoing the world of the baby Jesus two thousand years ago. It is still a world where peace is lacking.
And yet within that confusion people (the Magi) from afar, from different cultures saw a light to guide their lives shine over the manger in Bethlehem. Their hunger is everyone’s hunger. They brought their individual gifts. They travelled looking for Jesus and went away as followers – on a new path.
Our duty and calling as Christians today is to be like that star – to lead peoples of all nations, with their particular unique gifts to come to Jesus and go away as His followers. However our divisions dim that star, it is not a clear guide to the ‘Magi’ of today. The star still shines over that manger – this week of prayer will hopefully lessen one obstacle that prevents it from being clearly seen by ‘all people of good will’.
For the complete programme for the Week of Prayer visit the website of the World Council of Churches:
Reflections for each day
January 18th, DAY 1: We observed his star in the East (Mt 2:2)
Raise us up and draw us to your perfect light.
January 19th, DAY 2: Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? (Mt 2:2)
Humble leadership breaks down walls and builds up with love.
January 20th, DAY 3: When king Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him (Mt 2:3)
The presence of Christ, turning the world upside down.
January 21st, DAY 4: And you, Bethlehem… are by no means least (Mt 2:6)
Though small and suffering, we lack nothing.
January 22nd, DAY 5: Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising (Mt 2:9)
Guided by the one Lord.
January 23rd, DAY 6: They saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage (Mt 2:11)
Gathered in worship around the One Lord.
January 24th, DAY 7: Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt 2:11)
The gifts of communion.
January 25th, DAY 8: They left for their own country by another road (Mt 2:12)
Beyond the familiar routes of separation to God’s new paths.
Gracious God, when we only know one way and we think we must return to it,
and when we think that all roads are blocked,
and we fall into despair, we always find you there.
You are the God of renewed promises.
We find you creating a new path before us, one that we did not expect.
We thank you because you exceed our expectations.
We thank you for your wisdom that surpasses our understanding.
We thank you because your creative paths open up unforeseen possibilities.
If we search our maps and find no route, nonetheless we always find you,
who lead us by a yet more excellent way.
We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, that you will always lead us back to you.