March 19, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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What if we all prayed the same prayer at the same time? In part two of this special series on prayer, we’ll explore what unity in the Church is all about and share how to pray for unity like Jesus did using John 17 as our model.
Icebreaker Question: Share about your most eventful and memorable group project experience.
TAKE IT IN
In this section, we’ll give a brief overview of the topic and some key talking points to consider and reflect on before you dive into the discussion.
Memory Verse of the Week: John 17:20–26 (NIV)
“My prayer is not for them alone. 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—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will 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.”
For years, as a member of the Miami Dolphins, I watched Dan Marino, one of the greatest passers in NFL history, lead the team to the playoffs only to be eliminated. Why? Because as good as he was, Marino couldn’t do it on his own.
You see, team sports are just that . . . a sport that requires a team to win. LeBron James’ career further demonstrates this. After spending years single-handedly carrying an otherwise mediocre team to the playoffs and being unable to win a championship, he joined the Miami Heat and went on to win two rings. Even Michael Jordan had a strong supporting cast, including the all-time great Scottie Pippin.
What’s the point? You can accomplish much more and have greater success as part of a team. One person—no matter how talented—trying to do it all on their own is much less effective than a good team working together to accomplish a goal.
The same is true of our lives as Christians. While the Church is composed of people, we do better when we stand together!
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”—Psalm 133:1 (NKJV)
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”—Ephesians 3:14–21 (NIV)
If you’re a Christian, you’ve likely experienced encouragement from your relationship with Christ, comfort from His love, and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. This word fellowship in the original Greek is koinōnía, which implies community and intimacy; deep friendship and communion. You can’t have koinōnía alone. Christians have koinōnía with other believers and with the Holy Spirit.
Any shared experience creates unity—you think similarly, look out for one another, and put your needs after others. You create memories together you can look back on. You comfort one another. You love sacrificially.
This is how we’ve been designed to live. This is the mark of total and complete joy. This is the type of living Christ demonstrated, which contradicts how the world expects and encourages us to live!
Unity Is Built on Humility: John 17:21
Complete Unity Requires Maturity: John 17:23a
Unity Is Bound by Love: John 17:24
Unity Is a Testimony to the World: John 17:23b
When we pray in unity for unity, God binds our hearts together in Him, for Him, and for the mission!
Below, you’ll find some key discussion questions to personally reflect on and/or discuss in your small group, with your family, or in your circle of friends.
Discussion Question 1: What effect does Christian unity have on the watching world?
Discussion Question 2: Have you experienced or witnessed the kind of transformed community that testifies to the world about the validity of Jesus’ work and claims? If so, what were some of the features of such a community?
Discussion Question 3: What obstacles inhibit the kind of unity Jesus prayed about in John 17?
Discussion Question 4: Can you think of ways you could personally contribute to greater unity in your church life?
Close with a time of prayer together through Ephesians 3:14–21.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.