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"Help the weak" (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
"Hannah prays for a son" (1 Samuel 1:9-20)
"Listen to my cry of supplication" (Psalm 86)
"We urge you … to help the weak" (1 Thessalonians 5:12a, 13b-18)
"Ask and it will be given you" (Luke 11: 5-13)
Unable to bear a child and in great distress, Hannah prayed to God for a son and in due time, her prayers were answered and Samuel (which means I have asked him of the Lord) was born. In Luke's gospel, we read that Jesus himself tells us to "ask and it shall be given" and in our need, we turn to God in prayer. The response may not be what we expect but God always responds.
The power of prayer is immense, especially when linked to service. From the gospels, we know that Christ wants us to love and serve one another. In Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, the theme of service is taken up in the imperative: "help the weak."
We do not find it impossible to respond ecumenically in a practical way to people's weakness or distress; churches of different traditions often work hand in hand. But their witness in some situations is seriously weakened by their division, and when we want to pray together, we are sometimes deeply suspicious of the different prayer forms we encounter in Christian traditions other than our own: Roman Catholic prayers which are addressed to God through the saints or Mary the mother of Jesus; Orthodox liturgical prayers; Pentecostal prayers; the spontaneous, Protestant prayers which address God in direct, everyday language.
There are signs however of a new consideration of different forms of prayer. Within American churches, the experience of Pentecostal renewal has also led to a greater appreciation of the power of prayer and Pentecostals have begun to feel more comfortable in the ecumenical movement. Discussions with the Orthodox churches in the World Council of Churches have led to greater appreciation of each other's prayer forms.
Without doubt, confidence in the power of prayer is common to all our traditions and has rich potential to further the cause of Christian unity -- once we can understand and overcome our differences. We should give prayerful support to the dialogues which seek to address those differences among our churches and which prevent us from coming together at the Lord's table. Praying together that prayer of remembrance and thanksgiving would allow a great stride to be taken along the road to unity.
Help us, Lord, to be truly one in praying for the healing of our world, for the mending of divisions in our churches, and of ourselves. May we not doubt that you hear and will answer us. In Jesus' name, Amen.