Prayer and Work

August 31, 1997

Brother John Raymond


Recently I had a visit from a young man who quit his job in February. He told me about all the overtime that had been required of him by the company. He had quit, not because of this, but because he wanted to pursue a religious vocation. But other workers at the same company were envious of him because they could not quit—they had families to support.

All this brought back memories of my days working for a computer company. I had the same experience, a lot of overtime and stress along with it. Even though this was a salary job, I had overtime forced upon once at another job waxing floors in a hospital, my boss wanted me to work on Sundays. Since this definitely didn't qualify as necessary work I refused to do it. He backed down.

Studies show that people are working longer hours. Everyone is expected to work as if Federal Express was in charge. Everything has to be done yesterday. Given this situation it's no wonder that workers become impatient with other workers, clients and even their families.

What should one do? It is very important to get one's priorities straight - God first, family second, neighbor third and job fourth. When the fourth becomes first there is bound to be trouble. To restore the proper order one may have to change jobs or refuse overtime. Either of these possibilities could jeopardize so-called "getting ahead." But to really stay ahead, that is, of the things of this world, one needs to do what it takes to live a God-ordered life.

If you can't improve your job situation there is an alternative. First, think about how much time of your life is invested in your work. Quite a bit! If you can take this time and use it to practice the Christian virtues, including prayer, how different your life could be! Work would then be an opportunity to grow in love for God and neighbor. Perhaps this may involve putting holy pictures where you can see them at work to remind yourself of Christ's presence. Driving to and from work, a coffee break or part of a lunch break could be used for prayer, stopping in to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, even attending Holy Mass in some places. Develop some method of recalling yourself to God's presence. Perhaps every hour or half-hour pause for a short prayer. I read about a nun who broke up her day into the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, meditating on each of them at a particular time. Use whatever method works best for you.

Then there is your neighbor. Ask yourself: "How can I be charitable to my fellow-workers today?" Or "Is so and so going to be closer to God after coming in contact with me? Dealing with customers or clients is another opportunity to radiate Christ. In all this one needs to maintain a "prayerful" attitude so as to respond to situations in a "supernatural," as compared to "natural," way. Offer up prayers for help and think about work as an opportunity to grow in charity and to perform acts of charity.

Our work is an opportunity to use our talents for the good of others. Sometimes one person is all it takes to transform the workplace into a better place.




God our Father, work is Your gift to us, a call to reach new heights by using our talents for the good of all. Guide us as we work and teach us to live in the spirit that has made us Your sons and daughters, in the love that has made us brothers and sisters. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


(Prayer taken from Midmorning Prayer, Week I, volume IV of The Liturgy of the Hours: Catholic Book Publishing Company)