A Prayer for the Body of Christ

by Tony Dekker (Version 1.2, October 2003).

Copyright © 2003 by Anthony Dekker. Permission is given to distribute this prayer freely for non-profit use, provided that it is not altered and that this copyright notice remains intact. See also http://members.ozemail.com.au/~dekker/essays

English Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. See http://www.gospelcom.net/ibs/niv/

One evening, I was meditating on the Body of Christ. Paul says:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–20)

Yet, when I reflected on the Church of Christ in its entirety, spread out across the planet and across 20 centuries of time, there were so many of us:

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)

Furthermore, each of us played such a small part in the entire story, that not even an Augustine, an Aquinas, a Calvin, or a Wesley could be thought of as an entire hand, or an entire eye. But what part did we then play in the Body of Christ? It seemed to me that we were like the myriad cells of the human body: each different, yet each a development of the same basic DNA blueprint, each a living thing on its own, and yet each unable to survive independently. For a moment I could almost see this multitude of cells before me, as if in a vision, and I thanked God for the splendour of the image.

And it seemed to me that some of us were like red blood cells. Just as red blood cells carry oxygen—without which our cells cannot survive—to every part of our body, so some Christians carry encouragement to every member of the Church, sharing an awareness of God’s love through their actions.

Lord, bless these people in their work, and give them the energy to reach all of Your children, even the most isolated. As Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, may their love “increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.” And grant them also regular opportunities to recharge their own sense of Your love. Through Christ our Head, Amen.

Others of us seemed to be like muscle cells, working together to move the arms and legs, so that the Church can walk out into the world, and can reach out helping hands to those in need.

Lord, grant these people the grace to carry out their tasks with joy. As Paul prayed for the Colossians, let them be “strengthened with all power” according to Your glorious might, “bearing fruit in every good work.” May Your love shine out through the love of the Church in action. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

And again it seemed that others of us were like skin cells—the interface between the Church and the world—and so subject to the abrasion of dust and thorns from outside.

Lord, as Paul prayed for the Ephesians, strengthen them with power through Your Spirit, and let them be “rooted and established in love.” And so let them not fall away under the stresses of the outside world, but may they instead show forth the glow of a healthy Body. Through Christ our Head, Amen.

It seemed also that some of us were like the sensory cells of the nose, or the retina of the eye, alert to the smell of danger far away, or to the sight of help needed close at hand.

Lord, as Paul also prayed for the Ephesians, grant them the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” and enlighten their hearts. Let them have a true vision of what is happening around them, and grant that the Church may respond to the problems that they detect before it is too late. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Some of us seemed to be like the memory cells of the brain, remembering the truths of Your Word and the lessons that the Church has learned in the past.

Lord, as Paul prayed for the Philippians, may their love “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Grant that they may know the truth accurately, without introducing distortions of their own making, and that the truth may be applied wisely to what is going on around us. Through Christ our Head, Amen.

And finally it seemed to me that the whole Body was held together and inspired by the Spirit of God, without which none of the parts could function.

Lord, let us never lose Your Spirit, but let us stay constantly in touch with Your Love and Your Light and Your Life, without which no part of the Body can survive, and let Your Life and Light and Love shine out from us to the world outside. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.