by Gerald May*
*Excerpted from his article, “Prayerfulness at Work” from Shalem’s News, Volume 29, No. 1-Winter, 2005. The full issue may be viewed here.
Recently several people have asked me for suggestions about cultivating prayerfulness in the workplace. Here is a collection of suggestions from my previous writings and current inspirations:
I think people have two main reasons for wanting to enhance their prayer in the workplace. First, they desire their work, and everything else in life, to be inspired and guided by God. They do not want to take things into their own hands and forget the Living Presence of the Holy. Trusting that there is no place from which God is absent, they long to join God’s dance in the workplace as well as in all the other places of their lives.
Second, sooner or later, people often become aware of a desire to nurture a contemplative attitude in work and in life. True contemplative presence always comes as a gift; there are no techniques or methods we can use to make it happen. But cultivating a contemplative attitude can enhance our appreciation of the gift-and perhaps even our receptivity for it. A contemplative attitude is an open, receptive kind of prayerfulness that is willing to be present and responsive to things just as they are in the immediate moment-seeing and accepting the situation fully without blinders or prejudice. It includes a willingness-even a longing-to be in mystery, trusting and praying for God to guide one’s action even if there is no understanding or sense of direction. And it involves a deep radical trust that allows people to refrain from acting on their own initiative. It is like joining God’s dance without having to know what the next step is.
Your desire may be something like what I have described, or you may experience it quite differently. Regardless, I think the most important thing you can do is to identify your desire, claim it, and make it your prayer. In other words, if you want to be more prayerful in your work, pray for it.
Do you desire to be more spiritual at work? How do you bring your spirituality to your job? Is it a challenge or comfortable?
One thought on “Prayerfulness at Work”
When Jerry wrote this, I was only minimally in the workplace. Currently, I work outside my home more than I did in 2005, and am grateful for a fresh opportunity to be nurtured by Jerry’s wisdom. I can just see that twinkle in his eye when he suggests “if you want to be more prayerful in your work, pray for it.” 😉
In 2005 I was working in an interfaith bookshop, so faith-related conversations were easy. Now I am working in a public library which owns very few books deliberately related to spirituality. Remaining aware of God’s presence is more of a challenge, but also more of a delight when noticed. I leave out key books on the Staff Picks table, occasionally donate an appropriate book to enhance our collection, and encourage the good wherever it shows up. I’m a good listener to my coworkers. The hardest part for me is that I am an inner processer in a staff group that needs to talk things out to process! Ha! Kindly, God listens. 🙂