The Christian at work (Part 3)

27 08 2008

How do you relate prayer to work? Does this seem like an odd question? If you are a Christian it shouldn’t. If your goal is to live every facet of your life to the glory of God, you must consistently consecrate every activity and every endeavor to Him in prayer. If you wish to please Him in your daily activities, you will need to seek His blessing, direction, and provision and consciously submit your will to His. Your vocation is a major part of your life. It is a daily stage in which you are called to demonstrate God’s grace and truth in the midst of a world that operates on the principles of “me first” and “whatever it takes to get to the top.” To walk into that arena prayerlessly would be like walking onto a battlefield without armor, communications, or a battle plan.

The third principle for integrating faith in the workplace, then, we will refer to as the principle of active dependence. It is the deliberate cultivation of daily dependence upon God to enable you to represent Him well in the calling in which He has placed you. As a Christian, you are called to do your work “as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” If you are to put this principle into practice, you must be in constant communication with your True Employer through prayer. Spurgeon wrote:

Faith leads a man to look to God for help in his ordinary avocation. Here, again, it has a great influence over him. A believer may seek of God the qualifications for his particular calling. “What,” say you, “may we pray about such things?” Yes. The labourer may appeal to God for strength; the artisan may ask God for skill; the student may seek God for help to quicken his intelligence.”

Pray daily for skill, understanding, and ability

There are a plethora of resources available to professionals to help them succeed in the marketplace. Most focus on harnessing the “inner strength” of the individual, finding the “magic pill” that will give you a new perspective and enable you to unlock the secrets of success. For the follower of Jesus Christ, the secret of success is active dependence upon God, submitting every thought, action and decision to Him, and walking in His will. The man who does this will be successful, perhaps not as the world defines success, but certainly as God defines it.

Do you want to do well, and glorify God in your vocation? Do you feel inadequacy in some area of your work? Are there aspects of your job that you don’t understand, or skills that you feel you lack? Go to your heavenly Father and ask Him to help you to glorify Him by growing in your effectiveness and mastery of your field. If your genuine desire is to honor Him, rather than merely enriching yourself or building your own reputation, you will find Him more than ready to help you in your daily endeavors.

David was a great warrior, and he attributed his valour to God who taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight. We read of Bezaleel, and of the women that were wise-hearted, that God had taught them, so that they made all manner of embroidery and metal work for the house of the Lord. In those days they used to reckon skill and invention to be the gifts of God; this wretched century has grown too wise to honour any God but its own idolized self. If you pray over your work I am persuaded you will be helped in it. If for your calling you are as yet but slenderly qualified, you may every morning pray God to help you that you may be careful and observant as an apprentice or a beginner; for has he not promised that as your day your strength shall be? A mind which is trusting in the Lord is in the best condition for acquiring knowledge, and getting understanding.”

Prayer for godly conduct in the workplace

Even more important than your skillfulness in executing your vocational tasks is your behavior in the workplace. Your credibility among your co-workers, superiors and subordinates depends upon your faithfulness as an individual who professes Christ. Especially as a professing Christian, your fellow workers will be watching your conduct. If your speech and behavior are inconsistent with godliness, you will not only lose credibility as a professional, but you will give the enemies of Christ a reason to blaspheme. Daily diligence in prayer is essential to maintaining godliness in the workplace. Ask the Lord each day to grant you the grace to respond to every situation and challenge in a manner that honors Him. Pray for help to guard your tongue from harshness, gossip, backbiting, and disingenuousness. And above all, pray for humility, that when you stumble in these things, you will have the grace to confess it and make it right with your fellow workers. Without purposeful prayer, you cannot hope to maintain a godly testimony. Spurgeon puts it this way:

As to your behaviour also in your work, there is room for faith and prayer. For, O brethren, whether qualified or not for any particular offices of this life, our conduct is the most important matter. It is well to be clever, but it is essential to be pure. I would have you masters of your trades, but I am even more earnest that you should be honest, truthful, and holy. About this we may confidently go to God and ask him to lead us in a plain path, and to hold up our goings that we slip not, He can and will help us to behave ourselves wisely. “Lead us not into temptation” is one sentence of our daily prayer, and we may further ask that when we are in the temptation we may be delivered from the evil. We need prudence, and faith remembers that if any lack wisdom he may ask of God. Godliness teaches the young men prudence, the babes knowledge and discretion. See how Joseph prospered in Egypt because the Lord was with him. He was placed in very difficult positions, on one occasion in a position of the most terrible danger, but he escaped by saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” A sense of God’s presence preserved him then and at all other times. He was set over all the house of Potiphar because God was with him. And so, dear friends, engaged in service or in business, you may go to your heavenly Father and ask him to guide you with his counsel, and you may rest assured that he will order all your way, so that your daily calling shall not hinder your heavenly calling, nor your conduct belie your profession.”

Pray for success, as God defines it 

James exhorts us that we do not have because we do not ask, and when we ask and don’t receive, it is because we have asked with wrong motives, that we may spend what we receive on our own pleasures (James 4:2-3). Two important things are evident here. First, God expects us to pray for His blessing upon our labors. It is not wrong to ask God to prosper you in your vocation. He promises to bless those who seek Him and to prosper the work of their hands. Second, God will not grant success if you are not seeking it for His glory. If your goal is self-advancement, you have no right to expect divine favor in your pursuits. But if you desire to do well in order to glorify God and serve the ends of advancing His kingdom, He will grant you success. One important caveat, though: success must be defined in God’s terms, which are not necessarily linked to your material prosperity. When asking God to bless your labors, and prosper you in your vocation, you must be careful to submit your will to the divine will. It may be that God purposes to put you through a lean time, in order to strengthen your faith and increase your dependence upon Him. Remember that God does not define success as the world does, merely in terms of increasing in earthly possessions, wealth, or prestige. God defines success as that which most glorifies Him and serves the purposes of His kingdom. Spurgeon challenges us:

Faith bids you seek help from God as to the success of your daily calling. Know ye not what David says, ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.’ It is a most pleasant thing to be able by faith to consult the holy oracle about everything, whether it arises in trade, or in the family, or in the church. We may say with Abraham’s servant, ‘O Lord, I pray thee send me good speed this day.’ You may expect success if you thus seek it: and peradventure some of you would have prospered more if you had more believingly sought the Lord. I say ‘peradventure,’ because God does not always prosper even his own people in outward things, since it is sometimes better for their souls that they should be in adversity, and then the highest prosperity is a want of prosperity. Faith quiets the heart in this matter by enabling us to leave results in the hand of God.”

Pray for fellowship and support

One final area for which a believer can and should pray in relation to his daily pursuits is God’s provision of friends and associates who will help, support, encourage, inspire and challenge him. God has created us as social beings, and the encouragement of friends is a great help to the soul. Yet, as all things are under the providential care and governance of God, it is important to commit this aspect of our vocations to Him in prayer as well. Ask Him to raise up fellow-believers around you, that you may lift up and support one another. Ask Him to make you a light among your co-workers, that some may even be drawn to Christ by your humble and godly example. Ask Him to surround you with sound advisors, and those who are endowed with gifts and abilities that complement yours. Ask Him to keep you from evil company, and those who would lead you into sin. Take hold of this promise: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Prov. 3:6). Here are Spurgeon’s comments:

Faith acts also in reference to our surroundings. We are all very much influenced by those about us. God can raise us up friends who will be eminently helpful to us, and we may pray him to do so: he can put us into a circle of society in which we shall find much assistance in this life’s affairs, and also in our progress towards heaven; and concerning this we know that ‘The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord.’ Faith will keep you clear of evil company, and constrain you to seek the society of the excellent of this earth, and thus it will colour your whole life. If there be no friends to help him, the believer’s dependence is so fixed upon God, that he goes forward in cheerful confidence knowing that the Lord alone is sufficient for him; yet, if he be encouraged and assisted by friends, he looks upon it as God’s doing, as much as when David was strengthened by those who came to him in the cave.”

Imitate your Savior, who was a man of prayer

Spurgeon closes the section of his discourse on the necessity of prayer in the workplace with an exhortation to follow the example of our Lord Jesus, and we will give him the last word on this subject:

Do you say, We see the connection of this with faith, but how with faith upon the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us? I answer,-Our Saviour as the object of our faith is also the object of our imitation, and you know, brethren, how in all things he rested upon God. Whenever he undertook a great enterprise you find him spending a night in prayer. If anybody could have dispensed with prayer it was our Lord Jesus; if any man that ever lived could have found his own way without heavenly guidance it was Christ the Son of God. If then he was as much in prayer and exercised faith in the great Father, much more should you and I bring everything before God. We should live in the flesh expecting that the Lord Jesus will be with us even to the end, and that we shall be upheld and comforted by his sympathetic love and tenderness. Faith enables us to follow Jesus as the great Shepherd of the sheep, and to expect to be led in a right way, and daily upheld and sustained until the Redeemer shall come to receive us unto himself.”

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2 responses

17 01 2009
Ryan B

Hey there. What an awesome blog. Wondering if I could borrow the picture of praying hands for my own ministry site?

28 05 2010
Damian Rosenberg

Really interesting post. Honestly!

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