Work as Prayer

Work is a central component of both our faith and our daily lives. The average person spends more of their waking hours at work than with friends and family. More often than not, we are working to provide for our loved ones. Work puts a roof over our heads, food on our plates, and clothes on our backs.


But as Catholics, we believe that this work is more than earning a living; it is a prayer of our love for the people we support, as well as a message to God. Work shows God how much we love him, and it displays his love to those around us. In his epistle, St. James says, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works"—that is to say, we cannot separate our faith lives from our working hours. Faith is not meant to be confined within the walls of a church, only brought out on Sundays and holidays; we are meant to live our faith, communicating it through the world we are building, behind desks, in classrooms, offices, cars, kitchens, and homes. No job is too big or too small, and all have equal dignity when they are performed for love of Christ.


The prayer of our work needs to extend beyond our immediate family and loved ones to be a gift to the Creator himself, a gift offered up for the salvation of the world. We give this gift of our work in union with the one who is still creating, still working for the love of his children on earth.


We must turn our work into prayer because God wants us to do so. In the book of John, Jesus tells us, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." He also says, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me to accomplish his work." Jesus hungers to do the work of the Father in heaven, and we are to follow his example. Let us strive to be like Jesus, and in doing so, unite ourselves to the Father in our work.


Turning our work into continual prayer is not an easy task, but nothing good and worthy ever is. St. Benedict, a founder of monastic life, took his motto to be the Latin phrase, "oraetlabora" (translated as "work and prayer"), and he developed a complex set of rules for his spiritual sons and daughters to follow in order to turn their work into prayer. In today's world, we do not need to—and often can't!—escape to a monastery to provide for our spiritual wellbeing or that of our loved ones.

We must develop our own rules for the modern life, rules that are unique to each one of us and to our particular jobs. Here are some simple tips to begin uniting your work with the work of God: Set times on the calendar each day to pray to God, and do not miss this promise—join the universal Church in saying the Angelus at noon before your lunch break, or say your own private prayer.

Find something you do regularly, and develop a spiritual saying every time you do it. If you go up and down stairs a lot, say, "God, lift me up to you," or, "God, come down and be with me." If you visit a website or open a certain software frequently, say a prayer every time you do so.

Just as you put little reminders of your family in your workplace, put reminders of your spiritual family as well. Maybe a little crucifix near your desk or in your car, a quote from scripture, or a picture of your patron saint can be your daily reminder to pray.


Most importantly, always tell God, "I'm doing this for you!" When you send an email, when you hammer a nail, teach a student, council a patient—all these are opportunities to say, "God, I'm doing this for you." And don't forget to ask him, "What next?"

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