From 18-25 January, 2024, all churches in the northern hemisphere celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU). The motto chosen for this year is from the Gospel of Luke: “You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). Locally in each country, city, or diocese church communities have organised moments of prayer, workshops, gatherings and ecumenical meetings. Let us pray for Christian Unity!
Brothers and sisters from the Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, Protestant Churches, ecumenical bodies and the Chemin Neuf Community (CCN) collaborated generously in drafting the prayers and reflections for use during this week , and experienced this work together as a real path of ecumenical conversion.
[See additional useful links, information and resources at the end of this article].
The invitation to work together on the texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024 challenges the different churches in Burkina Faso to walk, pray and work together in mutual love during this difficult period for their country. The love of Christ that unites all Christians is stronger than their divisions, and the Christians of Burkina Faso commit themselves to walking the path of love of God and love of neighbour. They are confident that God’s love will overcome the violence that currently afflicts their country.
The Way of Ecumenism
Jesus prayed that his followers would all be one (cf. Jn 17:21), and so Christians cannot lose hope or stop praying and working for unity. They are united by their love of God in Christ, and by the experience of knowing God’s love for them. They recognise this faith experience in one another when they pray, worship and serve God together. However, in inter-church relations, including in Burkina Faso, this remains a challenge.
Like the priest and the Levite in the gospel passage, Christians often miss the opportunity to connect with brothers and sisters because of fear. During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we ask the Lord to come to our assistance, to tend our wounds and so enable us to walk the way of ecumenism with confidence and hope.
The resources prepared for the celebration of this year’s WPCU, representing different Christian traditions in Burkina Faso, are inspired by the image of the good Samaritan from the parable (Lk 10: 25-37). Jesus demonstrates what it means to love one’s neighbour.
“We are gathered as brothers and sisters to pray for the visible unity of Christians. At the heart of our worship is the story of the Good Samaritan where we hear the divine call to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Let us prepare to meet the God of Love in thanksgiving and joy, remembering his command to love.
Glory to you, Father, for you reveal yourself in your creation and call all people to live in your presence.
Glory to you, Christ Jesus, for you give yourself entirely to each one of us and invite us to do the same.
Glory to you, Holy Spirit, for you gather us together in love and unity.
Glory to you, God of Love, in whom we are created, redeemed and made one”.
Each day of the WPCU (eight days) we will share an extract from the Daily Reflection and prayers prepared for the WPCU 2024.
You can access the full text of the resources available HERE
“Help us, Lord, to have a life turned towards you.”
The existential realities of life, with divisions, selfishness and suffering, often distance us from the quest for God.
Jesus lived the mystery of intimate communion with the Father, who desires to fill all his children with the fullness of his eternal life. Jesus is “the Way” that leads us to the Father, our ultimate destiny. Thus, our quest for eternal life brings us closer to Jesus, and in so doing brings us nearer to each other, strengthening our closeness on the path toward Christian unity.
Let us be open to friendship and collaboration with Christians of all churches, praying for the day when we can all stand together at the Table of the Lord.
God of life,
You have created us to have life, and life in all its fullness.
May we recognise in our brothers and sisters their desire for eternal life.
As we follow Jesus’ way with determination, may we lead others to you.
We pray in his name.
Lord Jesus, who prayed that all might be one,
we pray to you for the unity of all Christians,
according to your will, according to your means.
May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division,
to see our sin and to hope beyond all hope.
(Inspired by a prayer of the Abbé Paul Couturier, Pioneer of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity).
“Help me Lord to love you, my neighbour and myself with all that I am”.
PrayerLord, give us the grace to know you more deeply,in order to love you with all of our being.Grant us a pure heart, to love our neighbour as ourselves.May the gift of your Holy Spiritenable us to see your presence in our sisters and brothers,that we may love each other with the same unconditional love with which you love us.Through Christ our Lord.Amen
“Lord, open our hearts to those we do not see”.
PrayerGod of love,Who write love in our hearts,instil in us the courage to look beyond ourselvesand see the neighbour in those different from ourselves,that we may truly follow Jesus Christ,our brother and our friend,who is Lord, for ever and ever.Amen.
“May we never turn away from those in need”.
As Christians, how far are we prepared to go beyond convention? Sometimes our ecclesial and culturally conditioned short-sightedness can prevent us from seeing what is being revealed by the life and witness of sisters and brothers of other Christian traditions. When we open our eyes to see how God’s love is revealed by our fellow Christians, we are drawn closer to them and so are drawn into deeper union with them. This parable of Jesus not only challenges us to do good, but also to widen our vision. We do not only learn what is good and holy from those who share our confessional or religious worldview, but often from those different from ourselves. The Good Samaritan is often the one we do not expect.
PrayerLord Jesus Christ,As we journey with you towards unity,may our eyes not look away,but be wide open to the world.As we travel through life,may we stop and reach out, bind up the woundedand in so doing experience yourpresence in them:you who live and reign for ever and ever.Amen
“Lord, help us see the wounds and find hope”.
PrayerGracious God,You who are the source of all love and goodness:enable us to see the needs of our neighbour.Show us what we can do to bring about healing.Change us, so that we can love all our brothers and sisters.Help us to overcome the obstacles of division,that we might build a world of peace for the common good.Thank you for renewing your Creationand leading us to a future which is full of hope:you who are Lord of all, yesterday, today and forever.Amen.
“Lord, turn our churches into ‘inns’, to welcome those in need”.
PrayerFather of love,In Jesus, you showed us the meaning of hospitality,by caring for our fragile humanity.Help us to become a communitythat welcomes those who feel abandoned and lost,building a house where all are welcome.May we come closer to one anotheras we offer the world your unconditional love.This we pray in the unity of the Holy Spirit.Amen.
“Lord, show us how to respond to our neighbour”.
PrayerHoly God,your Son Jesus Christ came among usto show us the way of compassion.Help us by your Spiritto follow his example,to serve the needs of all your children,and so give united Christian witness to your ways of love and mercy.We pray in Jesus’ name.Amen.
“Lord, may our fellowship be a sign of your Kingdom”.
PrayerHeavenly Father,we thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the giver of life,who makes us more open to each other, resolves conflict,and strengthens our bonds of communion.May we grow in mutual affectionand in the desire to announce the Gospel message more faithfully,that the world may come together in unityand welcome the Prince of Peace.Through Christ our Lord.Amen.
About Chemin Neuf Community
The Chemin Neuf Community (CNN) is a Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation, born in Lyon in 1973 and now established across five continents. Inspired, like so many new communities, by the dynamics of Vatican II, it is rooted in both the Ignatian tradition and the experience of Charismatic Renewal –i.e. life in the Holy Spirit. The Chemin Neuf community has an ecumenical vocation:“That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).“We dare to believe in the visible unity of the Church, and we have received a call to work for that unity with all our strength” (Constitutions,p. 20).
Life in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is located in West Africa in the Sahel region, which includes the neighbouring countries of Mali and Niger. It covers 174,000 km² and has 21 million inhabitants of about sixty ethnicities. In religious terms, approximately 64% of the population is Muslim, 9% adheres to traditional African religions and 6% is Christian (20% Catholic, 6% Protestant). These three religious groups are present in every region of the country, and in virtually every family. Burkina Faso is currently experiencing a serious security crisis, which affects all the communities of faith. Because of terrorism, the majority of Christian churches in the north, east and north-west of the country have been closed. Following the government’s calls for prayers for peace, social cohesion and reconciliation, individual churches continue to organise daily prayers and fasting.