WORK & PRAY
The Daily Practice:
SHORT KNEELING PRAYER AT WAKING, MID-WORKDAY & BED
Regular, carefully placed prayer is one of the keystone habits of spiritual formation. It is an incremental adjustment with monumental reward. Short, habitual, focused prayers at the right times can call us back to that which we desire most, whether we know how to name it or not – to be at peace in the presence of God. Immediately on waking in the morning, and before we check our phones and begin to imagine what demands the day has for us – we kneel and pray. At the turn of a workday, where the morning energy has worn off and we start to realize all the things we will not get done today, we kneel and pray. At the end of the day, before the moment when we lay down and the replay reels with their anxieties and regrets start to rush in on us, we kneel and pray. Our bodies matter, and kneeling is a way to call attention to the small radical act of asking God for peace, presence and love – and so much of it that we might turn and offer it to the world.
The first question that may come to your mind as you kneel in the morning is, What do I pray? If you’re not sure, try the Lord’s Prayer or perhaps the “Jesus Prayer” (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.) Praying by rote can be a comfortable way to remind us that we do not always need to come up with our own words. Words form us, maybe even especially when they are not ours – this is the idea of lex credendi lex orandi. When you do have something on your mind, pray for that too. This can be a one sentence prayer. Often if my kids wake me, I may not remember to kneel until I’m making coffee, or brushing teeth. That’s fine – I just pause right then and there and kneel. We work our bodies into prayer largely for our own sake of marking the moment and feeling the weight of it (literally, on your knees).
I like to look for the opportunity for midday prayer at the bend of my day. It’s usually triggered by an impulse to get more coffee. If I’m careful, I realize its not my body that’s tired, but my mind and/or soul. Sometimes its the impulse to get online, even though I know whatever I’m looking for I won’t find there. Work is hard and filled with emotional weight that neither caffeine or news sties can lighten. When I feel that point in the day, that’s when I look for a pause to kneel. Sometimes it is between meetings, sometimes after lunch. Sometimes it’s 4PM when I’m overwhelmed with all that I’m not going to be able to accomplish before the end of the day. Sometimes it’s after I get accolades and I need to remind myself how small I actually am. Usually I just close my office door and kneel, but if I’m away or if you are in a office setting where kneeling may elicit distraction rather than contemplation, try just gently turning your palms up to mark the moment. If your soul is tired, try the Jesus Prayer for mercy. If your mind is tired or you need focus for the rest of your work day, try Calvin’s prayer for work below. I recommend using the pause to add a prayer or two for the people your work serves (a nice way to remember that your work has the purpose of loving neighbors), and perhaps pray for a co-worker as well. If you have the time, don’t be afraid to linger for 5 to 10 minutes, or just sit in silence. This is an amazingly counter-cultural act in the middle of an American workplaces.
Note, that all of this is especially applicable for me if I am at home with the children. Those are the days of work where it is hard to focus on or finish anything (two of the great joys that can come from office work) so the space for a brief silence and prayer when the kids go off for an afternoon rest is key for me. (In fact, I am writing this only minutes after pausing by my son’s crib to kneel.)
Finally, in the evening, mark your bedtime by kneeling beside the bed. Perhaps pray for the peace and rest of sleep, perhaps extend that prayer to the peace and rest of your neighborhood, your city, the homeless who don’t have beds tonight, the depressed and anxious who may not rest tonight. Often bedtime for me can be marked by a sudden onslaught of self-doubt and worry, this is a moment to remind yourself that “all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Something that your body and soul can rest in. If you have a spouse or roommate, consider doing it together. Consider making it the very last thing you do, your final word to the day.
Now you have open and closed the day with a rhythm of prayer. All together you may have spent only spent three minutes on your knees, perhaps even less. But formational habits remind us that not all time is equal, and that lives and days can turn in a moment. We look for those kinds of moments. By pausing to kneel and pray three times, you quietly but insistently turn your day towards the love of God and neighbor.
THE COMMON RULE
Daily Habit of Kneeling prayer at morning, work and night.
A work prayer adapted by Keller from Calvin:
My good God, Father, and Savior, grant me aid by your Holy Spirit to now work fruitfully in my vocation, which is from you, all in order to love you and the people around me rather than for my own gain and glory. Give me wisdom, judgment and prudence, and freedom from my besetting sins. Bring me under the rule of true humility. Let me accept with patience whatever amount of fruitfulness or difficulty in my work that you give me this day. And in all I do, help me to rest always in my Lord Jesus Christ and in his grace alone for my salvation and life Hear me, merciful Father, by our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.