From January 18-25, the Christian Prayer Week for Christian Unity 2006 will focus on a promise from Jesus Christ as the theme for the ecumenical bodies around the world.
An ecumenical group in Ireland, assigned for this task, has chosen to center the theme on the promise found in the passage Matthew 18:18-20, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them," Jesus said to His disciples.
The group's choice was three-fold. They wanted to "draw attention to Jesus as the source of our unity," to acknowledge that "two or three" people can come together in Christ to build up "relations between divided peoples and communities," and to be "mindful that hope for the future, and peace and reconciliation in the present" involves dealing with our "painful memories" from the past.
"It is in the spirit," the group said according to the World Council of Churches (WCC), "that all Christians are encouraged to come together in prayer, and in mutual love to seek to understand each other amidst differences."
The passage in which the theme is found gave the early Christian community clear instructions from Jesus on how to build up the community of believers amid indifferences.
"The community which gathers around the person and words of Jesus must do all it can to ensure that it lives in harmony," an article on the WCC website said regarding the theme.
The article added that the promise Jesus made to His disciples will not only be within the confines of the church, but rather Jesus said He will be with them wherever they go.
"Through the presence of His Holy Spirit, the...Lord desires to be with us at all times and places, sharing our worries, advising us, journeying with us, entering our homes and workplaces, reviving our joy with his presence that leads us to the heart of the Father."
Since 1968, the Prayer Week has been jointly prepared by WCC and the Roman Catholic Church. It is traditionally celebrated from Jan. 18-25, with an exception from the Southern Hemisphere whose churches have a holiday break, thus moving them to hold the prayer week at a later date, around Pentecost.
The Hong Kong Christian Council, an affiliate of WCC, posted a joint statement regarding this year's theme on their website that represented the Diocesan Ecumenical Patriarchate Church Unity and Relations Committee, the Hong Kong Catholic Church and South East Asia, and the Hong Kong Christian Council.
The statement said, "We, first, recall the fact that we gather in the name of Christ. In so doing, He is among us and changes the simple gathering of two and three people into his body -- the Church."
"The words of Christ are a mandate and reminder that it is when we gather in unity, harmony and love that he will be present and among us."
They continued on and addressed the differences that exist in their communities and the conflicts that have risen from disputes within the church, but added that through struggles, understanding and prayer, they are able to "stand together" with one common hope.
The world, the statement said, which allows them to see "injustice, poverty, cruelty, and so many other wrongs" has allowed them to "take action as the people of God."
"It is this spirit of unity that the Christian communities of Hong Kong gather -- clergy, pastors, people in religious orders, women, men and children -- and affirm the presence of Christ in our midst."
"We proclaim that we are not only two and three, but all the people of God who join together in one voice, one mind, one heart and pledge ourselves to sharing the grace, wisdom and truth that have been entrusted to us by Christ."
The statement called for "reconciliation" to begin in Hong Kong and spread throughout the world.
Similarly, the Week of Prayer asks Christians to unite in prayer not only in this week but for the whole year in order for each community in the world to start something locally so that it will affect everyone on a global scale.
"Amidst our efforts to foster the unity of our own communities and of the unity of all Christians, we do well to be attentive to the importance of gathering ecumenically to pray in Jesus' name."