Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer in the United States. Across the nation people gathered together to pray for the nation, their state and their cities.
Here in Richmond the Christian Leaders Prayer Breakfast has taken place every year since the early 1990s. Travel has meant that I have not always been able to attend, but on the occasions I have been able to I have enjoyed participation with as many as two hundred leaders from across the spectrum of the Richmond Christian Community.
Jesus prays his great high priestly prayer on behalf of the church yet to be, when he meets with his disciples just before his arrest. In John 17 verses 20 & 21 we read: “My prayer is not for (my disciples) 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”. He is defining a formula for the success of the church. As we are in right relationship with one another, and as we are in right relationship with God, the world will believe in the good news.
Yesterday’s gathering in unity revealed a diversity of denominational affiliations. It was remarkable for several things.
We prayed together with the Richmond City chief of police. We prayed for him, and for the work that he is doing on behalf of our city. We also prayed for unity of the body of Christ in Richmond. I found myself wondering how many were aware of the significance of who was leading the prayer. As with the other prayer sections of the morning two leaders, representing the diversity of the body stood at the podium. The white pastor of a dynamic and contemporary local congregation introduced the topic with a powerful challenge to unity within the diversity of our various traditions. His congregation is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, an association which, in the name of restoring the Kingdom, has historically distanced itself from other Christian communities. He is representative of a younger generation of Churches of Christ leaders who recognize the importance of connecting with the church at large.
The closing prayer for the section was then led by the leader of a large African-American congregation. He also is representative of a younger generation of leaders, but still lives with the legacy of historical segregation. The rapid growth of his congregation has alienated it from some other African-American leaders, but despite this, the leadership and members are reaching out to connect with others.
Richmond has come a long way as its churches and Christian leaders have prayed. A growing number have consistently come together to seek the Lord for His Kingdom and Righteousness in our city. Much has been accomplished. There is still much more to do.