If you could ask God one question, what would you ask? So many different ways to answer that question. Some people want to know the answers to big, public mysteries, “Who killed Kennedy?” Or “Is Big Foot real?” Others might want to know about personal things like, “Is my dog in heaven?” Or “What if I had married my high school crush?” Still others might want to know about the future, “What will life be like in 2122?” Or “Will the Vikings ever be good at football?”
Another related question is, “If Jesus could pray for one thing for you, what would it be?” How we answer this question probably says a lot about who we are and what we value.
In the gospel this Sunday, we have at least one answer to this question. In the gospel Jesus does pray for you. At the end of a long speech (we call the Farewell Discourse), Jesus prays for his disciples and all those who believe because of the words of the disciples. If you believe in Jesus, then Jesus prayed for you.
What did Jesus pray for? Jesus prayed that all believers may be one. He prayed that all believers may be unified in the same way that Jesus and God the Father are one. Jesus prayed that all those in the world might believe that God the Father sent Jesus.
On the one hand, maybe we could think of more practical or universal prayers, maybe you think you can craft a better prayer than Jesus, but probably not. So why does Jesus pray for this particular thing for the Church?
In our time and place, in the the culture and in the state of not-so-civl society in which we live, maybe prayers for unity is exactly what we need. It would seem that disunity and rampant discord exist outside and inside the Church. I don’t know about you, but it feels like the whole world is playing for different teams. Even within the Church, contention seems to rule the day.
As bad as things seem in this way right now, this isn’t a new phenomenon. A quick glance at the history of the Church (and humanity for that matter), shows a whole lot of disunity over the years.
I think this prayer for unity and belief is exactly what we, the Church, have always needed. The devil seeks to separate us and sow seeds of distrust and relational chaos. From the very beginning of the Church you can read of spats and disagreements (read Acts for a full run down). But by the Holy Spirit disagreements turned into unity and shared joy.
And I think there is a clue in the early Church for us today. The disciples didn’t all agree. Early Christians sometimes didn’t see eye to eye on things as foundational as whether Jesus was God. Yet, when they relied on the Holy Spirit, when they accepted the prayers of Jesus, the Church has found unity.
Jesus prayed for it. The Holy Spirit provides for it. We will be blessed by it. Come Holy Spirit unify your people!
Live It: Pray for your enemies. Add “For my enemies” to your list of people you pray for. If you don’t have a list of people you pray for, start one with enemies right at the top. If you are daring, ask God to give you an opportunity to love the people you don’t agree with and then pray for grace because they are coming your way.