Jesus prayed that his followers would be one. Knowing the sinful human condition he prayed that those he had prepared and trained would be one, and that those who would believe in the future would be one as well. Whenever I read what many refer to as The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus I am touched by the truth that he was praying for me. Not exclusively, of course. He prayed for all of those would would come to faith through the preaching and teaching of the word. The prayer for oneness in the community of faith is expressed two times in this wonderful prayer---
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. 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, ESV
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me.
John 17:20-21, ESV
Numbers are always somewhat confusing. Demographers indicate that 62% of the American population claim to be Christians, or approximately 280 million individuals. The number of Christian denominations is another hotly debated demographic study, depending on what is considered a denomination. My point is that the American Christian community, when viewed in broad terms, is large, varied, and distinguished by particular theological, ecclesiological, biblical, and social interpretations. Being in agreement about pretty much anything appears to be a pipe dream for people and groups who have staked out their positions so clearly. But then, there's the prayer of Jesus, who prayed for oneness among his followers. It's a reminder of something else Jesus said when his disciples questioned him about salvation: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, ESV).
There's a hint about finding this agreement in what Jesus said after making the promise about agreement in prayer. He said, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18:20, ESV). The presence of Christ in the lives of those praying in the central factor in the harmony of agreement.
Oneness among believers is a recurring theme in the Epistles of Paul to the churches. There are dozens of texts encouraging the recipients to be of one spirit, one heart, one mind, as they share the blessings of one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is over all, through all, and in all. One of these verses places the concept of unity and agreement in context for me. Paul wrote---
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood
of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in
his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed
in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so
making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby
killing the hostility.
Ephesians 2:13-16, ESV
Christ has brought us near, is our peace, and has made us one. He has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, that is, all hostility, that "he might create in himself one new man in place of two...in one body, through the cross". Egocentric humans can become one in the work of Christ.
It's probably not true of anyone except me, but my prayer life has been a study of praying the right words, using the correct formulas for praying, and mastering the mechanics of prayer. In my old age I'm discovering that being in agreement in prayer is much more than that. Insuring his presence in my prayer life and depending on his provision of unity with others is the only possible means of having one heart, one mind, and one spirit when praying.
One writer quoted Tertullian as having said, praying together is "a holy conspiracy". I've searched high and low in Tertullian's Treatises to confirm this quote and have not been able to verify it. My research department is extremely limited. Even so, it resonates with my understanding of agreement in prayer. Knowing his presence in personal or corporate prayer unites me and other Christians so that we can be one when we pray.
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