Have you ever had the sacred honor of being with someone as they made the transition to eternity?
The last words a person utters before leaving this earth are generally considered some of the most important ones spoken. If you were to discover that some of the last recorded words of a very influential person contained a prayer for you, would you want to know what he had prayed? I know I would!
This week at Tuesday morning prayer at my church, our wonderful prayer leader Phyllis encouraged us to pray for unity among the body of Christ. God has put it in her heart to see pastors and prayer groups across denominational lines come together to seek God for our city, and together reach the lost and the hurting. And not just in our city – in your city as well, and in cities everywhere.
Her prayer has been resonating in me all week. Her vision of seeing cities transformed by the power of God like in the great revivals of the past makes me long to see it with my own eyes, and for my children to see it.
Questions like, “How can it happen?” “How can I do my part?” fill my mind and drove me to Jesus’ prayer in John chapter 17. Just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion, John recorded Jesus praying for Himself, His disciples, and for all those who would believe. This last recorded prayer for His followers carries the double weight of not just being the perfect will of God, but also of being THE message that He wanted to leave us with.
Jesus Final Prayer On Earth for All Believers
“…I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and You in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:20-26, NIV
Look at what Jesus prayed for all believers:
- That all of them may be one
- That they may be “in us” (Jesus and the Father)
- That they would be brought to complete unity
Unity in the Body of Christ
One only has to take the briefest of perusals of church history or look at the many different denominations currently within the Christian church to realize that “unity in the body of Christ” is not as easy as it sounds. Unity in one family with just two children is often not easy – much less entire groups of people with differing backgrounds, perceptions, and assumptions.
Jesus wasn’t praying for unity for no reason. He wasn’t praying it because He couldn’t think of anything better to pray – like that we would be comfortable, and never have trials, or that being His follower would look just like the American Dream.
Instead of many other options, Jesus prayed for unity among His followers, and He prayed that specific prayer for a very good reason: “to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”Unity in the church authenticates the message. Click To Tweet
It substantiates Christ’s claim to love the lost.
Unity says, “Together, we invite you to know our great God who loves you”. Discord says “Come back later – we’re busy arguing amongst ourselves and can’t help you now.”
Jesus knew that to fulfill the Great Commission, we needed to come together.
A city can’t be transformed by one church alone.
The world can’t be won through discord.
what can we do?
Just our part. We can “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11), we can do our part to promote unity as far as it depends on us.
Does “unity” mean we agree about absolutely everything? I’m not sure that’s even possible!
What, then, does it mean?
May I suggest that instead of focusing on nuances of belief or ways to worship, we allow the end goal that Jesus prayed to be our focus?
If each and every follower of Christ lived and breathed “to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them…”, what message would the world receive?
We may not eliminate disagreements, but perhaps they would be overlooked as inconsequential in light of the glorious task before us.
Later in His prayer, Jesus shares His longing with the Father – His longing for us to be with Him where He is going. His longing to be together forever in a place more wonderful than we can possibly imagine.
His longing isn’t just for you and me though – it’s for all those who will believe.
May His longing become ours today. Oh, that He would give each one of His followers grace to prioritize and pursue unity SO THAT the world will know that there is a God who loves them! May the world see and accept the offer of hope, healing, and an eternal home in His loving presence.
With faith, hope, and love,
P.S. – For further reading on unity in the body of Christ, you may enjoy this article by John Piper.