Along the ecumenical path to unity, pride of place certainly belongs to common prayer, the prayerful union of those who gather together around Christ himself. If Christians, despite their divisions, can grow ever more united in common prayer around Christ, they will grow in the awareness of how little divides them in comparison to what unites them. If they meet more often and more regularly before Christ in prayer, they will be able to gain the courage to face all the painful human reality of their divisions, and they will find themselves together once more in that community of the Church which Christ constantly builds up in the Holy Spirit, in spite of all weaknesses and human limitations.— Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint 22
From the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious InstitutePraying together in Jesus’ Name (
Isaiah 30:18-26, He will surely be gracious to you.
Psalm 136, His steadfast love endures forever.
Acts 1:12-14, Together in prayer.
Matthew 18:18-20, Prayer in Jesus’ name.Meditation
Gathering together for prayer, as a single worshipping community, despite differences on the human plane, is a consistent theme of the Bible. Communities gathered to worship and praise God, to seek God’s forgiveness and to intercede for God’s mercy and help. The graciousness of God is revealed even more in the fact that the Lord is a God of justice. Our prayers are responses to God’s justice, to what God has first done for us, for “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Throughout the Bible the character of God is revealed as gracious, patient, redeeming love. The Psalms have been preserved as the hymns and prayers of God’s people, recited when they met together to worship God. The shared words bound the people together and created a sense of belonging, which in turn gave them confidence and security. It was natural that this tradition should continue in the early church. Didn’t Jesus himself teach his disciples how to pray? In today’s gospel reading, Jesus teaches about granting whatever we ask, if we are agreed. When we meet together, as Christians, to love and pray with one another, we can be assured of Christ’s presence with us. Together, as we pray in Jesus’ name, we are also bound by him to each other and to the object of our prayer. Therefore, united prayer is powerful prayer. The disciples of Jesus devoted themselves to prayer and wanted to be united. It is quite possible that Jesus’ prayer for his disciples to be one, offered on the eve of his death, was made because they were not yet united in his name. Twenty centuries later, we need to ask ourselves, how much closer are we to being united in prayer, life and work? Our unity is indeed a gift that comes from God. Moreover, we realize that we must humbly and continually seek this gift. The apostle exhorts us to pray without ceasing that the Holy Spirit falls afresh upon us in our diversity but unites us through his prompting.
Lord, teach us to pray as Jesus taught his disciples. As they were united in their hearts, so may we be one in our faith, love and service. May we celebrate difference, rejoice in diversity and willingly share the riches of our patterns of prayer. Allow our coming together in Jesus’ name to transform us to be one in reality so that the world may believe in his abiding presence. Amen.