Judging by the traffic over the past year, Nashville is a pretty popular place to move to. As a guy who commutes into downtown everyday, I’m finding that drive time to stretch out a little longer each day. And in the midst of the gridlock, I am also finding that the drive is a good time to become anxious. You’re puttering along at a snail’s pace, knowing that with every passing moment another email could be hitting your inbox and your list of responsibilities could be growing larger and larger.
In light of my tendency to worry about such things, I’m also finding that the drive time is a great time to devote to prayer, and specifically prayer about work. But what to pray? That things will go well? That there won’t be a lot of opposition or criticism? That the stress level will be lower? There’s nothing wrong necessarily with any of those prayers, but prayer, I think, is not only about what we think we need but also an opportunity for God to form in us the kind of character He desires. Given that’s true, the way we pray should reflect it. It’s true about life as a whole, and therefore it’s also true about work.
Here, then, are 5 prayers to pray on your work this morning, that hopefully embrace a redeemed view of what work is:
1. Help me to remember who my true boss is.
It’s easy to forget, isn’t it? You have someone you report to, someone who holds you accountable for your performance in your job. And yet the Bible shows us that something deeper is going on at work, for the authority that sits over you or me sits there because God has seen fit for he or she to do so (Romans 13:1-2). The way we submit to our boss, then, is really a reflection of the way we submit to our greater Boss who put that person in their place to steward our energies. When we remember who our true boss is, we can work with fervor and focus trusting that we are serving Jesus through our efforts, whether plumbing sinks or making Bibles.
2. Remind me as I work that I am at rest.
Work is one of those aspects of life into which our identity can be easily intertwined. We use our work to define our worth and personhood and not just our livelihood. When we do that, we find ourselves continually trying to prove ourselves day in and day out through the work we do. But Jesus has already proven Himself on our behalf, and left us with nothing else to justify. He has given us, in the gospel, not only a day of rest, but a state of rest (Hebrews 4:1-13). When we know we are at rest, secured in Christ, we can cease our striving to prove and justify ourselves and are able to work in freedom and joy.
3. Help me to see people as eternal objects of glory not temporal objects of utility.
Most everyone has coworkers. And when you have coworkers, you depend on others to get their work done just as they depend on you. But the temptation in that situation is to view those people who work alongside you as a means to an end. If we’re not careful, we can begin to view those around us not as people for whom Jesus died, but only as those whose worth is determined by what they can give to you. The people who surround us in our offices everyday are more than temporal objects of utility; they are image-bearers of the Living God, and should be treated with dignity, care, compassion and respect. When our only focus is on delivering the product or service we’ve been hired to do, we can easily forget that.
4. Thank you for the chance to express both your saving grace in the gospel and your common grace in the world.
Martin Luther said that God Himself is milking the cows through the milkmaids. Luther, as I understand, argued that God uses the work we do as an expression of His common grace toward the world. So when we produce a good or perform a service, we are doing so for the organization and betterment of those around us. Sometimes in our work, we have the chance to share the gospel with our co-workers or those we come in contact with. That is a good and right thing, and when we take that opportunity, we are a conduit of expressing God’s invitation for saving grace. And beyond that, we have the opportunity to serve humanity through the work we do. That means our work is an opportunity to be an expression of God’s common grace in the world. What we are doing everyday is more than earning a paycheck; that’s a perspective changing truth to ask God to remind us of in prayer.
5. Guard me from the temptation of “more.”
Godly ambition is a good thing, but ambition in general is seductive. We can be ambitious at work for power, for money, for prestige – none of which are godly, but all of which represent an insatiable desire for “more.” But because we know that we are rich in Christ, that God does not withhold good from His children, we can be content with what we have. We take opportunities around us to excel in our vocations, but we also need the voice of the Holy Spirit to help us discern between godly ambition and selfish ambition for “more.”
Chances are you’re going to be doing some work today. You might do it in an office or you might do it on the road; you might do it outside or you might do it in the home. In any case, be encouraged not only in the work that you do, but be encouraged to ask God to frame your perspective on it before you get there.