When you want to make an appointment to talk to your company's CEO, perhaps his or her secretary will clear two minutes off the CEO's calendar for you to stop in and talk. Of course, there won't be an opening for a few months. Mind you, there's a good chance your appointment will be cancelled. And, of course, you'd better have something very important to say, as the CEO's time is valuable.
Yet to talk to the Lord God, the Founder of the universe, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, all you need to do is bow your head and close your eyes wherever you are, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, weekends and holidays included. This brings us to number four of the Six Habits of Really Effective Christians: "Pray to God to guide you and help you."
In a recent Bible Study at our church, the topic of "prayer in everyday life" came up. Instantly, many people in the room had an anecdote to tell. A teacher recounted how well her students responded to her lessons when she began with a short prayer to herself. A doctor described how smoothly his surgeries went whenever he said a short prayer before the procedure. A businessman spoke of how people with many disparate personalities all seemed to come to agreement in meetings he conducted whenever he said a short prayer to himself before starting.
Usually when people think of prayer, they think of specific times of the day—thirty minutes during Sabbath services, an hour during spiritual convocations, twenty seconds before and after meals, three score and ten seconds before bed, or if by reasons of strength, four score.
Likewise, when people think of reasons to pray, they have specific ones. They need to pray for someone who is suffering and needs healing, for the holy work of the church, or for their families.
These are all valid and important times and reasons to pray, of course. But sometimes people tend to think that these are the only times and the only reasons to pray. That's not what the Bible says. Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
Prayer is not a chore, to be done at set times and only for certain purposes. It's a gift from God, one that not many people in the history of human civilization have been blessed to have. There was a time when pretty much the only way to reach God was through sacrificial offerings, and even that wasn't direct communication with Him. Plus, it was pretty much only for people who happened to be born into a certain family line.
Today, you can consider prayer a "perk." You can almost consider it the greatest job benefit you have. It's a direct line to God that has been granted freely to all who have been saved and who have been declared righteous in the eyes of God. Like all your other benefits, you should try to get the most use out of it that you can.
We need God's power, guidance, and strength throughout our lives—not just for the 13,000 hours of our adult lives that we'll spend in church but also for the 100,000 hours we'll spend at work.
While it's probably not proper etiquette to kneel down in the middle of a meeting and start speaking in unknown tongues, there's no rule that says you can't seek out quiet places to pray, whether out loud or in silence. You can use your office, an empty meeting room, or the copy room.
Things to Pray for in the Workplace
So what can we pray for at work?
For Guidance and Knowledge. Are you faced with an impossible project at work? Why not ask the One who managed, engineered, and deployed the creation of the heavens and the earth for His take on things?
For Wisdom. If you're leading a meeting, consider saying a short, silent prayer to yourself before it starts, asking God to allow it to run smoothly. When you're typing an e-mail or talking to others, pray for God to give you the right words to say. When rancor and disagreement arise, as they usually do, only God has the power to understand and to melt human hearts.
For Courage and Strength. Perhaps you have a big presentation to give, an audience scheduled with some top executives, or some other daunting task facing you. Or maybe you just feel overwhelmed and burned out. Whenever you're feeling weak or nervous, remember what it says in 2 Chronicles 20:15, and over a hundred more times in the Bible: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's."
For Comfort. You may have friends in the workplace, but chances are good that you don't have someone who can sympathize with your every weakness and understand when you feel alone, helpless, or frustrated. Proverbs 18:24 says, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
For Patience. When someone wrongs you, the knee-jerk reaction is to strike back with a vengeance. Yet, "a man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense" (Prov 19:11). Try as we might to force ourselves, this kind of patience and forgiveness only comes from God.
For Purity. I was recently talking to a brother who'd just started working in an office. One of the first things he noticed was: "Those people all have dirty mouths!" It's true. We live in a world where swearing, drinking, and slander are the norm. As the apostle Peter says, someone who has the attitude of Christ "does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God" (1 Pet 4:2). It takes reliance on God to keep from being polluted by the world.
For a Reality Check. The next time you receive an award or accolades from those around you, remember what Jesus did. When the crowds wanted to make Him king, he withdrew and prayed. He didn't bask in his own earthly glory but recognized in humility that the glory came from and belonged to the Father. Through prayer, He kept Himself in check.
For Forgiveness. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and especially the pride of life are alive and well in the workplace. We commit sins in many ways there, most of the time without even knowing it. Worse, we may be guilty of the sin of denying God. When we realize that we've sinned and confess to God, He is faithful and will forgive us.
In Thanksgiving. "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other" (Ecc 7:14). Whether our current situation at work is smooth or rough, God intends it for good. Through good and bad, God gives us opportunities to learn, to grow, and to become more perfect in His sight. And for that, we should be very thankful. There's a reason why Paul wrote the phrase "give thanks in all circumstances" immediately after the phrase "pray continually" (1 Thess 5:18).
For Your Co-workers. "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Gal 5:14). In the parable of the Good Samaritan, only the Samaritan realized that his neighbor was anyone he came across in life who needed God's healing touch. In the same way, our prayers should extend to our co-workers and those who are impacted by our work so that, in our work and our daily lives, they can see and experience the love and power of Christ through us.
Prayer As Part of the Workday
The list goes on and on. There are as many reasons to pray as there are issues to deal with on the job. And the remarkable thing is that God will always listen. There is no reason too petty, no length of prayer too short, no person too unimportant that God will not hear from heaven and act.
Try this everyday for just one week and see if it doesn't make a difference in your life: before you start your morning commute or before you get out of the car in the parking lot at work, spend a couple of minutes to say a short prayer for the coming day. Ask God to guide you in all that you do during the coming hours. Ask the Lord to help you to glorify His name in whatever you do that day.
Then, continually throughout the day, if the thought of prayer enters your mind, don't squelch it and say that you'll kneel down and "properly" pray after you get home. Instead, speak then and there to God. At the end of the day, on the ride home, reflect on the hours that have just passed, and give thanks for the blessings of another day.
Chances are, you'll suddenly find that meetings become more productive, your relationships with colleagues improve, you have the wisdom to tackle the most difficult tasks and the patience to handle the most tedious ones, and your day goes by much smoother. After you've tried it for a week, you'll most likely wonder how you ever got by without it.
In the Workforce" is a recurring column dedicated to survival tips and advice on how to shine the light as a Christian at work. If you have some advice or anecdotes from your own work experience that you feel may be edifying to the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.