One of the outstanding characteristics of the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17 is the repetition of His prayers for the unity of His people. At least FOUR TIMES in His intercession He asks the Father to make His people unified, as ONE:
— :11b “that they may be ONE even as We are.”
— :21 “that they may all be ONE; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in you, that they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
— :22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, THAT they may be ONE, just as We are one,”
— :23 “I in them and You in Me, THAT they may be perfected in UNITY, so that the world may know that You sent Me …”
In light of these repeated requests, it would be hard to overstate just how importance the unity of His people is to Jesus. Those of us who would follow Him seriously must make it OUR priority too. We must realize that if unity had that important a place in Jesus’ prayers, then it should be a priority in OUR praying as well. We should continually intercede for unity in our church, and in our family, “guarding” it in prayer like Jesus did (:11-12).
We must also be willing to make practical, personal sacrifices in order to obtain and preserve this unity. It is more important than “getting our own way;” it is more important than secondary and tertiary doctrinal issues. Philippians 2 shows us the way:
“Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus …” (Philippians 2:2-5)
Jesus spent His life in prayer and personal sacrifice to purchase His church. He now asks us to spend our lives in prayer — yes, and in specific personal sacrifices — in order to maintain the unity of the church that means so much to Him.