Isaiah 44:6–23 (Listen)
Besides Me There Is No God
6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
8 Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any.”
The Folly of Idolatry
9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
The Lord Redeems Israel
21 Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel.
Ephesians 4 (Listen)
Unity in the Body of Christ
4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The New Life
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Mark 3:7–35 (Listen)
A Great Crowd Follows Jesus
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
The Twelve Apostles
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Psalm 54 (Listen)
The Lord Upholds My Life
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, “Is not David hiding among us?”
54:1 O God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2 O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
3 For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves. Selah
4 Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
5 He will return the evil to my enemies;
in your faithfulness put an end to them.
6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7 For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
Psalm 146 (Listen)
Put Not Your Trust in Princes
146:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 28 (Listen)
The Lord Is My Strength and My Shield
28:1 To you, O LORD, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.
3 Do not drag me off with the wicked,
with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors
while evil is in their hearts.
4 Give to them according to their work
and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
5 Because they do not regard the works of the LORD
or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.
6 Blessed be the LORD!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
8 The LORD is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
Psalm 99 (Listen)
The Lord Our God Is Holy
99:1 The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he!
4 The King in his might loves justice.
You have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt the LORD our God;
worship at his footstool!
Holy is he!
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
They called to the LORD, and he answered them.
7 In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them;
they kept his testimonies
and the statute that he gave them.
8 O LORD our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.
9 Exalt the LORD our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for the LORD our God is holy!
The Confession of St. Peter (January 18)
About the Commemoration
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Begins
Since the fourth century there has been a festival of Peter, called the “Chair of Peter” which honors both Peter as the head of the Roman Church and also his cathedra, his chair of episcopal authority as the focus of Church unity founded on the leader of the twelve apostles. The Roman Catholic Church now observes this feast on February 22, the older date, but because it often falls in Lent many churches had moved the celebration to February 18.
The Episcopal Church in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer took the feast of the Chair of Peter with its gospel of Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” renamed it the Confession of St. Peter, and set it at the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The calendar in the Lutheran Book of Worship followed that precedent and gave the week of prayer a standing in the calendar that is unequalled in any other church.
The martyr deaths of Peter and Paul are commemorated jointly on June 29. St. Paul has a festival of his own marking his conversion (January 25), which is the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It therefore seemed logical to the drafters of the Book of Common Prayer and the Lutheran Book of Worship to introduce a festival of St. Peter and to set it at the beginning of that week, thus including the week in the calendar of the church. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is therefore set between the two great apostles of Christianity, Peter and Paul. Moreover, the two represent in a way the two faces of biblical tradition: Peter, the apostle to the Jews, represents the Mosaic tradition of law, and Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, represents the Abrahamic tradition of faith.
When Peter with characteristic boldness confessed, You are the Christ and the Son of the living God,” Jesus responded, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” The exact referent of “rock” is much disputed, some claiming that it is Peter himself, some claiming that it is Peter’s confession. The one who made the great and central confession of the Christian faith was himself a fisherman, impetuous, often stumbling, intense, who at the arrest of Jesus denied knowing him. After the resurrection, however, he strengthened the church and was its acknowledged leader, courageously preaching the news about Jesus, and eventually laying down his life for his Lord.
Peter’s traditional symbol in Christian iconography is two crossed keys, representing the power to bind and to loose, bestowed on him by Jesus (Matt. 16.9, today’s Gospel).
Prayers for the unity of the divided church date at least from the time of the Reformation. (See Archbishop Laud’s well-known prayer for the Church given earlier at January 10.) The first Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in 1867, in the Preamble to its Resolutions, emphasized prayer for unity. In 1894 Pope Leo XIII encouraged the practice of a Prayer Octave for Unity in the context of Pentecost. Paul Wattson, an Anglican priest who later became a Roman Catholic, initiated a Church Unity Octave in January 1908. In 1926 the Faith and Order Movement began the publication of “suggestions for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.” Abbe Paul Courtier in 1935 in France advocated a Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the basis of prayer “for the unity Christ wills by the means he wills.” In 1964 the Second Vatican Council in its Decree on Ecumenism (II.7) emphasized that prayer is “the soul of the whole ecumenical movement” and encouraged prayer for Christian unity.
James Keefer has suggested a helpful plan for comprehensive prayer for Christian unity:
January 18: Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, and other Eastern Churches
January 19: Roman Catholic and Uniate Churches
January 20: Anglican, Old Catholic, and allied churches
January 21: Lutheran, Moravian, and Methodist Churches
January 22: Congregational, Presbyterian, and Reformed Churches
January 23: Baptist, Amish, Mennonite, Hutterite, and Christian (Disciples of Christ) Churches
January 24: Pentecostal and charismatic churches
January 25: Nonmainstream communities; theologians and councils seeking to promote Christian unity while preserving Christian truth.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
From Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr by Oscar Cullmann
[D]uring the lifetime of Jesus Peter did not show himself a “rock” at all; on the contrary, his human weakness was very striking. The scene at the Sea of Genessaret gives a concrete illustration of Peter’s character. He is impulsive and enthusiastic; in the first burst of enthusiasm, he does not hesitate to throw himself into the sea when Jesus calls him, but his courage soon fades and fear grips him. So, too, he is the first to confess loudly his loyalty to his Master, but he is the first one who will deny him in the hour of danger. And yet, so one assumes, precisely this character, with its notable contradictions, makes Peter appear as the disciple with special psychological fitness to be the “rock” among the other disciples. The exuberant enthusiasm, the fiery zeal of this disciple are said to be in fact the human qualities that are necessary to deserve such a title of honor. His instability and weakness are said to be only the dark side of these qualities.
Nevertheless, it is hardly possible to give a psychological basis for the unique position of Peter and for the giving to him of this name. Indeed, we should not ask at all why Jesus singled him out as “rock” instead of choosing another disciple. According to our sources, we can only confirm the fact of this distinction. Probably, however, it is also a mistake to say that the representative position of the disciple Peter and the qualities mentioned were derived only from the giving of the name. We can hardly say that only by this act did he become conscious that in his person he represented, so to speak, the totality of the disciples, even during the earthly life of Jesus. Again we can only state the fact: Peter lets us see clearly everything that the call to discipleship involves in human weakness and privilege.
Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, trans. Floyd V. Filson, 2d rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962), 31-32.
Almighty God, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
BCP, based on RS February 22
Readings: Acts 4:8-13; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16:13-19
Prayers: For the unity of the church; For clarity and boldness in the church’s preaching; For reconciliation between the Roman and the non-Roman churches; For Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, and other Eastern Churches.
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.