Prayer as Preparation for Our Work

Aug 29, 2022

Modern life militates against prayer as preparation for our daily work. Now that our household is an empty nest, I find time for solitude and spiritual reflection in the morning. When our four children were home, however, my morning model for the chil­dren was “prayer on the run.” Sometime during the day they might see me alone with my Bible, and we finally settled on Sunday night as the time reserved for family prayer. During the week, our regular prayer time fell during the pre-meal moments when we tried to gather the family at our round table for dinner. 

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Prayer on the run is no substitute for the “brooding time” which preceded God’s creative work in the Genesis story. When I was in the busy work cycle with my family, I remember the comfort I received from the title of Malcolm Boyd’s book, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? The title implies the speed of our spiritual activism which requires Jesus to run and catch up. Of course, this is nothing more than a show of spiritual arrogance. Yet, I bought into the idea because I needed to justify my lack of “brooding time” alone with God. I remember rationalizing my prayerlessness by contending that “prayer on the run” for a Christian college president doing the Lord’s work was just as good as “prayer before the run.” Also, I hid behind the weak excuse that the “quality of prayer’ was more important than the “quantity of prayer.” Neither excuse holds water. I still pray on the run, but those petitions are usually spotty and self-serving. If only I had followed God’s example of “brooding time” long ago, my daily work would have been more effective and my spiritual growth would have been greater. 

Prayer as Training for Work and Business

The monastic fathers disciplined their daily lives accord­ing to the Latin motto laborare est orare, or “to work is to pray.” After early hours of meditation, they went to a full day of menial labor and then returned to evening prayers before retir­ing for the night. Spiritually, however, their prayers were pri­mary. They worked only for sustenance; true spirituality came through the discipline of their devotions. During the hours when they worked, they continued in the attitude of prayerful discipline. 

Prayer in the Creation Ethic is different. According to Genesis 1:2, the Spirit “brooded” over the dark waters and the empty earth. Because brooding is a form of prayer, the motto of the monks, laborare est orare, might well be applied to the Cre­ation Ethic. But there is an essential difference. For the monastic fathers, prayer had spiritual priority over work; for the Spirit of God in Creation, prayerful planning served as preparation for effective work. Neither praying nor doing had priority. Each had spiritual value of its own. 

Written by David McKenna, Love Your Work! (Victor / SP)   Photo by Ben White on Unsplash   Used by permission. Content distributed by > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.