Work. A lot of different things come up in relationship to it. For some, it’s simply a means to an end—a way to put food on the table. For others, it’s where they get to live into their sense of calling and are at their best. And for many it’s a mixed bag of sorts. Because it’s where those of us in the “working years” of our lives spend the greatest percentage of our time, work brings up a lot of thoughts, feelings, desires, and experiences, all of which have some sort of impact on our souls.
A number of years ago, I found myself in a place of stress and frustration at work. The difficult parts were overshadowing the good. I could feel myself overly striving in some situations. In another situation resentment was growing inside of me toward a colleague whose decisions negatively impacted me. My soul began to feel “slimed” by my circumstances, by the enemy, and by my own sin. It was distracting me from what I wanted so deeply—to honor God and make a difference through my work and in the lives of others. I knew I needed God. And I needed hope in God at work.
During that time, I was drawn back to the truth that I’ve known for many years—that even more than we are called to our work, our primary call is to God—to live into our relationship with Jesus everywhere and in every part of our lives, including in whatever work we do, whether it is in the world of business or politics, the nonprofit sector, in ministry, on the mission field, as a stay-at-home parent, or somewhere else. This call connected with my desire for God to meet me in a greater way in my vocational life. I longed to experience God at work—literally there, present with me as I engaged in my vocation and as I interacted with others in my workplace. I wanted to work with God, more dependent on and empowered by the Holy Spirit than on my own power and strength, and able to recognize his fingerprints and hear his voice as I walked throughout the course of my day. I also longed to experience God at work transforming my heart, rooting out what didn’t belong, filling me with his Spirit, and bringing me back to the place of gratitude that had been overshadowed.
As I prayed and reflected on all this in that season, I sensed an invitation by God to craft a spiritual discipline called “God at Work” that would serve me in these needs and desires. (That’s what I love about spiritual disciplines—they’re there to serve us so that we can draw nearer in relationship to the Lord and experience more of the Spirit’s transformation.) This discipline is a simple way to journal and pray to prepare for my day as well as to look back over it. I chose to engage in this because It helps me better notice and cooperate with all that God is up to in my work and in my heart. It is a simple practice I’ve returned to regularly over the past few years.
There are two parts to the practice:
Part 1: Preparing for the Work Ahead
As I practice the discipline of preparing for my day, I bring to the Lord the people and tasks ahead, along with other things on my heart. I invite God into each of them, leaving space for him to speak to me about each one if he desires. I also pray for protection around my day and that I would have greater awareness of his Spirit. Finally, I set a time during the day when I can pause to remember that God is with me and just be with him in stillness and silence for a minute or two.
I’ve been encouraged by the fruit that comes from this. As I’ve taken time to bring the tasks and people on my calendar before the Lord, I’ve sometimes experienced him giving me specific direction for my work or timely words to share with someone that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. There have been moments when he’s shared his perspective with me, or reminded me who he is to me or who I am to him. This has influenced my mindset or even the course I take throughout my day, and given me more peace and centeredness in him! I’ve noticed that after taking time to prepare my heart for my day I often have a more open and loving attitude concerning the unexpected changes or interruptions that come my way. Sometimes when I’ve prayed a prayer of protection over my day I’ve seen shifts in the spiritual atmosphere that changed the nature of certain things. The bottom line for me is that taking time with the Lord to prepare for my day has made a difference for the better in my life and in the lives of those my life influences or impacts.
Part 2: Reviewing the Day
To review my workday, I’ve revised Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer of Examen—a prayer that many have used for centuries to review their day. Through this, I honestly talk with God about what my day was like and take time to notice, in particular ways, how he was present and working in me, through me, and around me. I take time to examine how I’ve lived in alignment with his Spirit while I was at work, and how I haven’t—taking my sins to the Lord, confessing them, receiving his forgiveness and asking him to help me turn from them tomorrow. At the end, I spend a few minutes resting in and remembering the Lord’s presence and love for me.
Reviewing my day with the Lord makes a difference. When I’ve taken time to look over my day and notice how God’s been at work in big ways or small, it’s cultivated gratitude in me. When I’ve spent time recognizing and giving God credit for what he’s been up to in me, through me and around me when it comes to my work and the people connected to it, not only has it built my faith, but it’s helped me know just how present and good the Lord really is. This has been true even in those seasons where life or work is harder, when God seems quiet, or I don’t have much of a felt experience of him. No one loves to spend time looking at the sin in their hearts, but the time I spend in confession during my review of the day has been a key practice in learning how to cooperate with the Spirit’s sanctifying work in my heart. This is important, because who I am influences the work I do and the impact I make with my life. When I go to work, I want to make a difference. I want to bless and be a conduit of God’s love.
For me, in those times when I’ve prepared and reviewed my day, it’s made a remarkable difference—one that has been life-giving. If you desire a tool that could help you cultivate deeper relationship with God at work, you might want to give this two-part practice a try. Perhaps consider experimenting with it for a week and see what difference it makes—in your life and in the lives around you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ellen Burany leads the ChurchNEXT ReNew Team, a CRM ministry working to strengthen the souls of Christian leaders so they can thrive in every season of life and ministry. She lives in Tustin, CA.