The next year, in January of 1908, Reverend Wattson and Mother Lurana White publicly dedicated January 18 to 25 to prayer for Christian unity in the Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, Graymoor, in Garrison, New York. The event has been observed annually ever since.
Today, Christians around the world celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity together, with the encouragement of the World Council of Churches' Faith and Order Commission and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In January of 2008, the Society of the Atonement marked 100 years of consistently praying and working for the unity of the Christian Churches.
The theme for the 2009 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was selected by a local ecumenical group from South Korea. The theme will be “That they may become one in your hand” from Ezekiel 37:15-19, 22-24a.
This section of Scripture in Ezekiel describes God's revelation given to Ezekiel to take two pieces of wood in his hands, and to carve on one of them the names of Judah and its allied tribes, and on the other, Ephraim and the northern tribes. He was then to hold the pieces together. When asked the meaning, he explained that God's message to them was that God would make all of Israel one again.
“I will gather the people of Israel from among the nations. I will bring them home to their own land from the places where they have been scattered. I will unify them into one nation on the mountains of Israel. One king will rule them all; no longer will they be divided into two nations or into two kingdomsâ?;;;¦Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David (referring to Jesus Christ) will be their king, and they will have only one shepherd.”
Pope John Paul II wrote, “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.”
1 Corinthians 1:10 expresses the heart of God through the words of the Apostle Paul. “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” This plea has been largely ignored by Christians for 2,000 years, but it is still God's will. As long as God's Word is not ignored but is held high in its exalted authoritative position, any attempts to unify Christians are welcome.
In the instructions to Christians in the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul again pleaded with God's people to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The word translated endeavoring is also translated to be diligent and to labor, to do ones utmost. To keep is to watch over and attentively observe. God's desire is that Christians work diligently together, paying close attention to maintaining spiritual unity, bound together without strife.
Paul goes on to write about the one Body of Christ, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and the one God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is above all other so-called gods, all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere-present, “who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6) Clearly, God's Word is emphasizing unity.
In this time of instability in this world, the Prayer for Christian Unity event is scheduled to take place January 18 to 25, 2009. Perhaps there has never been a more critical time, and Christians would do well to lay aside any differences and spend some serious time in prayer. There is unimaginable power and strength in unified prayer and Almighty God loves to hear His people pray.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight. The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:8,29)