By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Peter was kept in Jail, but the people of the church were praying earnestly to God for him.” – Acts 12:5
Week of Prayer
In January of every year, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Vatican sponsor a worldwide celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This activity is founded on a living hope that people on bended knees can be more loving and considerate of one another and therefore they can unite more easily for a common good.
Here in Baguio City the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated this week, January 21-26. Member churches of the WCC, like the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), Episcopal Church of the Philippines (ECP), United Methodist Church (UMC), Lutheran Church of the Philippines (LCP), and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) are taking turns in hosting the prayer services. The theme for this year’s celebration is taken from Deuteronomy 16:18-20: “Justice and Only Justice You shall Pursue.”
Ecumenism from Below
It is important to note that the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is perhaps one if not the only concrete expression of grassroots ecumenism worldwide. There is a common observation that oftentimes ecumenism or unity among Christians remains only on the level of leaders. That’s why leaders of churches who would ally themselves with certain political and economic interests could easily withdraw their support to the ecumenical movement.
The hope of the movement for Christian unity lies among the masses of people worldwide who would realize the urgent need to be one in prayer in building up a better world.
Church in Prayer
The Book of Acts talks about the life of the Early Church. It shows how the
Gospel spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. In order to please the Jewish leaders, King Herod Agrippa started persecuting the Christians. He ordered the execution of James, the Brother of John. Then, he also ordered the arrest of Peter and put him in jail. The Book says, “Peter was kept in Jail, but the people of the church were praying earnestly to God for him” (Acts 12:5). The church united in prayer for Peter.
Indeed, there were times in history when the only option left for the church is to kneel down and pray. Today, when an innocent person is imprisoned like Peter, we can have other options to do, like holding some mass actions, writing petitions or seeking dialogue with the authorities. But apparently in the Early Church, none of these options were possible. Christians can only kneel down in prayer.
According to the story, Peter was sleeping when an angel of the Lord woke him up and sent him out of the prison cell. His chains fell off; the prison cell was opened. Peter was set free (Acts 12:6-19). King Herod ordered the execution of the guards upon knowing that Peter was nowhere to be found.
Power of Prayer
We must not underestimate the power of prayer. This is our way of communicating with the One who created the heavens and the earth. Our prayers may not be able to set free innocent people languishing in jail, like what happened to Peter in the Early Church.
But perhaps by kneeling down together in prayer, we might be able to set free ourselves from the prison cell of self-righteousness and closed-mindedness that oftentimes prevent us to unite as one people for the fulfillment of our common vision of a nation that is just, genuinely peaceful, and truly free.# nordis.net