Prayer and Work

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

  • Colossians 3:22-25

“After the first morning hour [of prayer], the Christian’s day until evening belongs to work. “People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening” (Psalm 104:23). In most cases a community of Christians living together will separate for the duration of the working hours. Praying and working are two different things. Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer. Just as it was God’s will that human beings should work six days and rest and celebrate before the face of God on the seventh, so it is also God’s will that every day should be marked for the Christian both by prayer and work. Prayer also requires its own time. But the longest part of the day belongs to work. The inseparable unity of both will become clear when work and prayer each receives its own undivided due.”

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Back on March 1, I wrote about our need to pray more.  I took a hard look at myself and, in looking back, saw all the times that I relegated prayer to that moment between one busy thing and the next busy thing.

When we look back and see our mistakes, we should never dwell there.  In learning from our mistakes, we should learn to do better in the future.

Bonhoeffer takes much the same view on our need to pray, but he admits that our work dominates the working hours of the day.  He makes it clear that while prayer should not get in the way of working, working should not get in the way of prayer.

While our efforts to do our best in the workplace provides for our family, our prayer life, carefully set aside to ensure our concentration on God and His will, provides for the family as well.

While most of us are not owned by someone else, thus a slave, we can still be slaves to our paycheck.  We should take heed of the Scripture.  Our work should be to the best of our ability.  As an old fellow worker once said, there are two ways of getting rid of a bad boss.  If everyone agrees to quit working for him, a sit-down strike might get him removed, but the ramifications of such a move may work against those involved.  The other way is for each employee to exceed everyone’s expectation of themselves.  The bad boss will take all the credit and get promoted, hopefully to another group, far away.

In the Scripture above, we should have been doing our best already, whether our goals were personal, to get ahead, or corporate, to establish a better productivity for the company, making it more profitable and a more stable place to work for everyone.  But whether we get a promotion, or we simply make the company that we work for a better place to work, those are earthly goals.

Doing our best is what God expects of us.  Yet, burning the midnight oil to make the company succeed is wrong too.  We must balance work with family and with prayer.  Each must have its place.

As for me, I just finished two small projects for my old employer.  My wife finished her cardiac rehab in mid-February.  I am hoping and praying that, with the added unscheduled time, I can now spend more time writing, reading and praying.  After all, I feel ‘retirement’ should be spent doing what God wants me to do.  I pray that my days of spending most of my waking hours at work to earn a paycheck are behind me.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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