18th - 25th January 2020 is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year's theme is 'Unusual Kindness' and the materials have been prepared by the Christian churches in Malta and Gozo (Churches Together in Malta).
Bob Fyffe, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, writes of this year's Week of Prayer:
"We look, but what kind of looking do we do? How do we see and understand ourselves, especially in the light of our relationship with the Living Christ? We know that God speaks to us in still small voices, but also in the people and places we least expect. In supposed barren, hard places there can spring unimaginable beauty and nourishment.
In spite of the turbulence of the world at the present time, we also discover acts of kindness, of love, forgiveness and hospitality in places or from people we did not expect. As in the natural world, there are still the places where the water of life seeps into the mainstream and brings colour and joy and offers a hopeful future.
But it is only when we immerse ourselves in the vitality of all that life brings do we find this water of life seeping into the main steam. Our Bible story gives us a visceral story of human fear, survival, hope and love. It will invite us to reflect upon the abundance of God’s grace and fullness, that we can see if only we stop and look closely at what is in front of us. In the most difficult situations, inhospitable places and even in the most inhospitable people, there we will find something of God’s grace.
We are invited in this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials to see God working through people and places which offer unusual kindness. If only we would do the appropriate kind of looking."
Biblical reflections and prayers for the eight days
Acts 27:18-19, 21
"We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard... Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss’.”
To live an untethered life means that we may well find ourselves at the mercy of wind and wave. Besieged by storm and circumstance, carried by the tide, thrown off course, we can find ourselves run aground, clinging to the hope – that we might loosen our grip of individual claim and right, and hold to a shared ownership of this rock of truth. Fissure cracks unearthed by seismic change, fresh and raw – now open to the elements – make it easy for fracture and the heartbreak of division and disunity to split our truth apart. But as we find each precious piece, like flotsam and jetsam washed up on distant shore and held safe in the hands of someone else, might we come together and re-form? As a new picture emerges a re-seeing re-imagining reconciling of ourselves and each other. We are all at the mercy of the storm regardless of where we stand. Port or starboard, aft or stern it’s the same boat, traversing the same waters. Whether we sink or swim might well depend upon who or what we cling to or let go of.
Reconciling God, as we feel the pain of past mistakes, shy away and retreat to individual strongholds; help us surrender a false sense of who we are, all that tethers us, and all that we hold precious. Bind us to humility and compassion, as we learn together, to receive from You, abide in You and Your love. Amen.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is promoted in the UK and Ireland by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland where you can find further information and resources. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity leaflet for 2020, from which these prayers are reproduced, is published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. In addition to these daily reflections, it contains background information and a variety of other useful resources. It can be downloaded from the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland website here and also, for convenience, pdf from our website .