Every now and again I like to share one of the pastoral prayers from Grace Fellowship Church. This particular one was prayed by Paul Martin on a recent Sunday. The context, as is obvious from the prayer, is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and, perhaps more specifically, the vaccine mandates that are taking root in our city and country. This context provides many opportunities for Christians to disagree with one another and, therefore, to become disunited. This, then, is a prayer for unity in our local church.
O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our one true God, this is a prayer for unity, a prayer on behalf of Grace Fellowship Church of Toronto. Please hear our prayer and answer it.
We are aware of athletes who run hard for 25 miles, only to falter before the finish line. Jesus told of those who started to build towers, but only got part way done. We don’t want to get nearly through this pandemic, only to falter before the end. So, our triune God, make us one. Father, remember the prayer of your Son on our behalf, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11).
This season of life has shown us ways we are different from each other in categories we rarely considered before. Some of us think the government has acted in folly, others think it has done well. Some of us think vaccines are dangerous, others think they are a gift. Some of us fear coming to church, others wish we could sit shoulder to shoulder when we do. And these strong differences of opinion on important matters could lead us to grow suspicious of one another; to avoid fellow members we disagree with; or even to judge them in our hearts. O Lord, fill this church with people who value your Word over their opinions. Make it so the most important thing in the world to us is to do what we are certain is absolutely true. Settle our eyes on the simplest of your commands and send your Holy Spirit to empower our faithful obedience to them.
By your grace, let us: love one another with brotherly affection and outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10); keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8); live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16); agree with one another and live in peace so that the God of love and peace will be with us (2 Corinthians 13:11); greet one another with true love (2 Corinthians 13:12); welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us (Romans 15:7); bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2); behave with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2); be kind to one another and tenderhearted (Ephesians 4:32); encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11); submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21); if one has a complaint against another, forgive the other (Colossians 3:13); consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24); not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25); confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16); show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9); as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace (1 Peter 4:10); clothe ourselves with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ (1 Peter 5:5).
And as we do all these good things, Lord, keep us from doing some other awful things. Let us not: pass judgment on one another (Romans 14:13); become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26); lie to one another, seeing that we have put off the old self with its practices (Colossians 3:9); speak evil against one another (James 4:11); bite and devour one another (Galatians 5:15).
These are good things we know we can do and bad things we know we must not do. The worst thing that could happen to us as a church is if we would let our circumstances provide us an excuse to disobey the clear commands of your Bible. O God, please forgive us for where we have failed to love and properly care for each other. Forgive us for wishing ill on people who see things differently from us. Forgive us for retreating into little like-minded cells where we can grumble about those we disagree with.
You hate those things. But you love unity without any forced uniformity. You love it when your people choose to be one. That is what Satan hates. He hates it when people show off your love and power by standing together in love even when they disagree. So we are sure that the Devil will continue to hound, hassle and harangue us in every way imaginable to get us to pull out of the marathon. To stop building the tower. O Lord, give us the strength of Samson to persevere in this battle.
I pray for every member of this church facing job loss or education disruptions due to vaccine requirements. O God, grant them the strength of their convictions and show them mercy. Help them to stand before you with honest hearts and to trust that you will carry them through. Help our church to be ready to help wherever we can, even if certain ones of us would make different decisions. And Lord, intervene on their behalf. Open up a new way for them.
I pray for every member of this church who feels quite fearful of attending a public worship service. O God, help them and grant them the courage of their convictions. And when they come and gather, let them do so in faith, not compulsion. May they do it with full confidence in you and your grace.
I pray for those who strongly believe our governing authorities are in error. O God, let them express their views carefully, always remembering to honor their leaders, just as much as they fear their God. I pray for those who think our governing authorities are doing an excellent job. O God, keep them from trusting in mere men and women, and help them to settle their greatest confidence on you alone. I pray for all those lost in the middle, those who have a hard time knowing what is best and what is folly. O God, help them to rest on you like a weaned child on her mother’s lap. If matters seem too complex to them, give them the faith of a child in you. You welcome all who come in humility and weakness.
O God, we would have no idea what to do in these days if we did not have our Bibles. And again, Lord, we ask that you would keep our eyes on the clearest and simplest parts of that Book. We will not live wrong if we do what we know is right. And you have given us such clear commands, the greatest of which is for us to love one another. “God is love.” And we are most like You when we are imitating your love. Therefore, may we “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1–2).
And may the unity that results from this mutual love make Grace Fellowship Church shine like the sun that breaks through the clouds on the most dismal of days, so that all who look over here and see the light will, in turn, worship the light, our thrice Holy God. To whom we pray, Amen.