20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23 – NASB95)
The verses above are a portion of what is often called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus for His disciples (which ultimately includes us). Pastors, through the centuries, have sought to offer pastoral prayers for their church family as well. Below is a pastoral prayer I read recently in a blog by Tim Challies (www.challies.com – 3/12/23). I thought it was appropriate for our church family since we have been studying 1 John 3:10b-24 and our missionary John Glass preached last week on John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Read this prayer out loud, and then read it again as a prayer that the Lord would do these things in our fellowship for His glory.
Lord Jesus, your greatest treasure is Your Father. Thus you could say, “I and the Father are one.” And since Your life was all about service and generosity, it is no wonder You prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” And we admit to being startled by this request, Jesus. Would you have us be as unified and loving toward one another as that oneness that exists between You and Your Father?
How glad we are you prayed even further. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one…” Lord Jesus, if it was this unity that took up your last prayers on earth, then we are sure of three things: This matters to You; We must need a lot of help to live this way; It will happen. For no prayer of Yours goes unanswered.
So, even though we are aware of all the ways we mess this up, we are all here now and looking to You and saying, “Please intercede on our behalf before the Father to answer this prayer.” Make us one. Not a group of people that all dress alike, think alike, talk alike, raise our kids alike, spend our money alike, but a bunch of people who look at all the ways we differ, and even all the ways we offend and sin against each other, and say, “I choose to be one with you.” This is our prayer for true fellowship, Lord.
And to do this, make us a more honest church, able to say what we mean and mean what we say to one another. Please crucify all pretension, hidden agendas, passive-aggressiveness, veiled meanings, and every sniff of dishonesty. Give us the courage to be authentic with one another. And then balance that authenticity with thoughtful love. We don’t need to say everything we think. And we don’t need to confront everybody who has sinned against us. Grant us that long-suffering, believing-the-best-of-the-other kind of love for our fellow members. A love that endures social awkwardness, bears minor offences, hopes for the best outcomes, and displays the Holy Spirit’s enabling grace of patience.
Christ, every thought of you encourages us. Your great love comforts us. We have fellowship with Your Holy Spirit. You have been so affectionate and sympathetic toward us. How could we not do everything we can, to be of the same mind. To hold each other in the same love. To seek to do everything as part of the same team and with the same spiritual objectives in mind.
Forgive us, for when we have thought more about how everyone else has failed us, rather than how we have failed them. Forgive us, for getting cranky that we have to serve again, instead of believing it is more blessed to give than to receive. Forgive us for holding grudges — how could we ever do that, when You have forgiven us ALL of our sins! Forgive us for being easily offended — make it our joy to overlook an offence. Lord, please bring to Your mind all the things that might hinder our fellowship and give corresponding grace. All those obstacles and interferences that are unique to our church.
Most of us do not live close to one another. Some of us are very introverted. Others have perhaps gotten off to a rough start meeting fellow members. Many of us are relationally weary, very aware of the kind of turnover an urban church like ours experiences. There are perhaps a few here who are just in some kind of weird spiritual funk and are just looking for some way to be offended or hurt.
Lord, look on us. Our church. The members of Grace Fellowship Church [The Bridge Bible Fellowship], and give us the exact grace we need. Grace to overcome our sins. Grace to compensate for our natural inhibitions. Grace to turn from sin and selfishness and to make it our goal to “in love serve one another.” Make us very mindful of our members who are shut in or providentially removed from us. Help us get to know fellow members that are really different from us. Give us a concerned eye to keep watch for members who are struggling, drifting, or turning in bad directions. Help us to fulfil our responsibilities to one another.
Build our unity and love for one another in order that Your very real prayer would be answered here with us, “that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” For, indeed, Father… You have loved us even as You loved Your Son. And people who have been loved like this… well, they live differently. They live with the kind of inner fortitude and spiritual strength, not just to love one another, but to love… love … their enemies.
O God, fill our church with that kind of love. Real love. Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered, God-glorifying love. We join with the Baptist and say, “We must decrease, You must increase.” Revive the fellowship in Grace Fellowship Church [The Bridge Bible Fellowship]. Do that through Your Word as it is preached today. Do that in our care for the marginalized and forgotten. Do that for sister churches like. And do that for us. We mean it, Lord.
We are willing to do whatever it takes to glorify You in this way. So, please help us. Show us where to change and what to do. And please, Lord, glorify Your Name and Your love in our little church. This we ask in the Name of the One who prayed it first, Jesus Christ. Amen.