Chaplain's Corner: Work and Pray
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (Ps 89: 17)
Many Eastern Church Christians starts the day with morning prayer reading Psalm 89 which asks God to bless our work. St. Paul tells us: “For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.” (1 Cor 3:9).
The Godliness of work is not unique to the Eastern Christian Church. Many religious traditions also ask God to bless the work that is done by man. Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.”[i] He also tell us: “Infinite striving to be the best is man's duty, it is its own reward. Everything else is in God's hands.”[ii] In the Islamic tradition, the Koran states: “And say: Work; so Allah will see your work and (so will) His Apostle and the believers; and you shall be brought back to the Knower of the unseen and the seen, then He will inform you of what you did.”[iii]
St. Paul tells the Thessalonians to “. . . pray constantly. . .” (1Thes 5:17). To the average person caught up in the exigencies of fast paced modern life this may seem all but impossible. (Morelli, 2005). An Eastern Orthodox bishop, St. Theophan the Recluse (1966), however, relates some practical ways in which work and prayer can be comingled. “Begin retreating into solitude at your own home, and dedicate [some time] of solitude to praying above all for one thing: ‘Make known to me, O Lord, the way wherein I should walk [Ps 142: 8]. Pray thus not merely in words and thought, but also from you heart.” Then throughout the rest of the day we can keep in mind and apply in our own lives an insight St. Theophan had: “I remember that St. Basil the Great [an Eastern Father of the Church, 330-379 AD] solved the question how the Apostles could pray without ceasing, in this way: in everything they did, he replied, they thought of God and lived in constant devotion to Him. This spiritual state was their unceasing prayer. . . .What is required is a constant aliveness to God --- an aliveness present when you talk, read, watch, or examine something.” In other words, the ‘sense of the presence of God’ can be alive within us while we work.
This will bring about a psycho-spiritual benefit for us. St. Isaac of Syria informs us: experiencing God in prayer] fills the heart with peace, establishing a person in joy and confidence.” (Brock, 1997). As Solomon, son of David the King of Israel and ancestor of Christ, writes: “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God…” (Ecc 2:24) In the words of Lebanese Maronite Christian author and poet Kahlil Gibran: “Work is love made visible.”[iv]
Brock, S. (1997). The Wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press.
Kadloubovsky, E. & Palmer, E. M. (1966). The art of prayer: An Orthodox anthology. London: Faber and Faber.
Morelli, G. (2005, November 28). Being Perfect vs. Perfectionism. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/MorelliPerfectionism.php