Africa, Jan/Feb 2020, Vol. 85 No. 1

Tom O'Connor

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

January 18th to 25th – They showed us unusual kindness. (Acts 28:2)

The 2020 theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is: “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness” (cf. Acts 28:2). The materials have been prepared by the Christian churches in Malta and Gozo (Christians Together in Malta). On 10th February many Christians in Malta celebrate the Feast of the Shipwreck of St Paul, marking and giving thanks for the arrival of Christian faith on these islands. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles used for the feast is the text chosen for this year’s Week of Prayer. The story begins with Paul being taken to Rome as a prisoner (Acts 27:1ff). Paul is in chains, but even in what turns out to be a perilous journey, the mission of God continues through him. This narrative is a classic drama of humanity confronted by the terrifying power of the elements. The passengers on the boat are at the mercy of the forces of the seas beneath them and the powerful tempest that rages about them. These forces take them into unknown territory, where they are lost and without hope.

Today many people are facing the same terrors on the same seas. The very same places named in the reading (27:1, 28:1) also feature in the stories of modern-day migrants. In other parts of the world many others are making equally dangerous journeys by land and sea to escape natural disasters, warfare and poverty. Their lives, too, are at the mercy of immense and coldly indifferent forces – not only natural, but political, economic and human. This human indifference takes various forms: the indifference of those who sell places on unseaworthy vessels to desperate people; the indifference of the decision not to send out rescue boats; and the indifference of turning migrant ships away. This names only a few instances. As Christians together facing these crises of migration this story challenges us: do we collude with the cold forces of indifference, or do we show “unusual kindness” and become witnesses of God’s loving providence to all people? 

God, giver of life, we thank you for the gift of your compassionate love which soothes and strengthens us.  

We pray that our churches may be always open to receive your gifts from one another. 

Grant us a spirit of generosity to all as we journey together in the path of Christian unity. 

We ask this in the name of your Son who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. 

Amen. 

(Prayer – Day 8) 

Reflections and Readings: 

January 18th to 25th 

 

Prayer – Day 1

Forgiving God, set us free from the painful memories of the past, that wound our shared Christian life. Lead us to reconciliation so that, through the Holy Spirit we may overcome hatred with love, anger with gentleness, and suspicion with trust. We ask this in the name of your beloved Son, our brother Jesus. 

Amen.

 

DAY 1 

Reconciliation: Throwing the cargo overboard.

Acts 27:18-19,21; Psalm 85; Luke 18:9-14 

 

DAY 2 

Enlightenment: Seeking and showing forth Christ’s light. 

Acts 27:20; Psalm 119:105-110; Mark 4:35-41

 

DAY 3 

Hope: Paul’s message. 

Acts 27:22,34; Psalm 27; Matthew 11:28-30

 

DAY 4 

Trust: Do not be afraid, believe. 

Acts 27:23-26; Psalm 56; Luke 12:22-34 

 

DAY 5 

Strength: Breaking bread for the journey. 

Acts 27:33-36; Psalm 77; Mark 6:30-44

 

DAY 6 

Hospitality: Show unusual kindness. 

Acts 28:1-2, 7; Psalm 46; Luke 14:12-24 

 

DAY 7 

Conversion: Changing our hearts and minds. 

Acts 28:3-6; Psalm 119:137-144; Matthew 18:1-6

 

DAY 8 

Generosity: Receiving and giving. 

Acts 28:8-10; Psalm 103:1-5; Matthew 10:7-8

 

For the complete text go to the World Council of Churches website: https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources

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