As I watched the inauguration of President Obama yesterday, I listened closely to the prayer of Reverend Joseph Lowery. I had missed the opening prayer of Pastor Rick Warren, but I was able to hear Reverend Lowery's benediction and join him in a prayer for our nation and our new President. Reverend Lowery is a member of my Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in North Georgia. In addition to serving with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Lowery served formerly as Senior Pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta. To say the least, Reverend Lowery prayed powerfully for President Obama and our nation. At the conclusion of his prayer, my wife said, "Now that was a prayer!"
My thoughts turned afterward to the prayer of Jesus found in John 17. In the beginning of that chapter, Jesus prays for his twelve disciples who will carry His Gospel to the world. He prays that His Holy Father will protect them and make them one. (Vs. 11). But then Jesus prays for the future generations of His followers...those who would come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through the first disciples' witness.
First, Jesus prays that we would be one just as Christ and the Father are one. (Vs. 21) Jesus prayed that His followers would come to complete unity for the purpose of showing the world that Jesus was the Son of God. (vs. 23)
Second, Jesus prays that His love would reside in the hearts of His followers. (vs. 26)
Does the Church reflect Jesus' love and unity with the Father? In answering this question, we may too quickly think of all the ways the Church does not reflect Christ's love and unity. However, let me encourage you to do differently. Instead of thinking too critically, pray that the love of Jesus will be manifested in the Church. Pray that we are so filled with the love of Jesus that it is readily recognizable by every person. Pray that churches unite in the love of Christ to accomplish all that Jesus has called us to do. After all, this is Jesus' own prayer and desire for His Church.