52 Workday Prayers: Learn from the Psalms How to Pray Through Your Work - Introduction
God has given us the Psalms for many reasons. One of the main ones is to teach us how to pray. From the Psalms we get to know more intimately the God with whom we speak. And through the Psalms God shows us how we speak to him.
Perhaps one of the most striking things about the biblical psalms is their extraordinary variety. Some psalms burst forth with thunderous praise. Others approach God with utter silence. Some psalms celebrate God’s faithful love for us. Others cry out in deep pain and disappointment. Through the Psalms, God invites us to open our minds and hearts fully, to pray, holding nothing back.
The sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin called the Psalms “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul.” He noted that in this unique book “the Holy Spirit has here drawn to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions” that plague our minds. Calvin saw the Psalms as a kind of textbook for prayer: “A better and more unerring rule for guiding us in this exercise [of calling upon God] cannot be found elsewhere than in the Psalms.” Moreover, Calvin continued, “whatever may serve to encourage us when we are about to pray to God, is taught us in this book.”
Among other things, the Psalms teach us to pray about our work. After all, to our work (both paid and unpaid) we devote a vast proportion of our time, thought, energy, and emotion. If work is such a major part of our lives, and if the Psalms teach us to pray in every way and about everything, then surely they can help us pray about work.
In the past year, I have discovered just how true this is. For fifty plus weeks, I have based my Life for Leaders devotional writing on the Psalms, focusing on one psalm each week. Based on that psalm, I have written a prayer that reflects one or more of its themes. Using the Psalms in this way has allowed me to pray more broadly than I usually do, talking to God about things I might otherwise neglect to mention. The practice of praying about my work from the Psalms has helped me to recognize God’s presence as I work, something I hope to share with you.
I should say that not every prayer in this collection reflects my personal experience in the moment. The same will be true for you as you use these prayers. You may, for example, be reading a prayer of lament about work at a time when your own work is going great. When this happens, let me encourage you to do a couple of things. First, tuck away the themes of this particular prayer for when you might need it. Second, think about others in your life who are experiencing something like the psalm writer, and offer of this prayer for them.
If you find this guide to prayer helpful, I should mention that the De Pree Center publishes a daily, email devotional called Life for Leaders. I am the principal writer, joined by an excellent team of co-writers. Like 52 Workday Prayers, Life for Leaders is a Scripture-based devotional that connects to the real issues of life, including work. In fact, Friday’s devotion is usually like a chapter in this prayer guide. You can check out Life for Leaders here: https://depree.org/devotions/.
I am praying that 52 Workday Prayers will help you to grow in your awareness of God’s presence as you work, and teach you to talk with God about every part of life, including your daily work.
Grace and Peace,
Mark D. Roberts
Author and Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership
How to Use 52 Workday Prayers
52 Workday Prayers can be used in a variety of ways, both for personal prayers and small groups or classes. Here are some possibilities:
Using 52 Workday Prayers by Yourself
Use one prayer each week for a year. – You can work your way through this guide over the course of a year, going prayer by prayer, using and reflecting on each prayer for a week. You can also spend time with the resources noted in “For Further Reflection.” If the theme of a particular prayer doesn’t really fit your life situation, see if you know other who need this prayer. You can offer it on their behalf, or perhaps even let them know about 52 Workday Prayers.
Go through this guide more quickly. – You don’t have to devote a week to each prayer, of course. If you prefer, you can go at the rate of one a day for 52 days, or whatever else works best for you.
Pick a prayer that expresses your current situation. – The table of contents for 52 Workday Prayers lists all of the prayers according to the psalm from which they are drawn and the basic theme. So, if you’re in a particularly good season at work, you may want to read “Rejoicing When Your Work is Fruitful” based on Psalm 4. But if things are going quite poorly, you may instead need “When You’re Afraid You Might Lose Your Job” based on Psalm 6.
Using 52 Workday Prayers in a Group
Go through the guide, one prayer at a time, in your small group. – 52 Workday Prayers can enrich your small group experience. You might, for example, set aside ten minutes of each group meeting to read the chapter, including the Scripture text, any prelude, the prayer, and the closing material (Ponder Throughout the Day; For Further Reflection). Or, you could use a chapter as the basis for the whole group meeting. In this case, you’d want to talk in depth about the biblical text (and maybe the whole psalm), as well as how this passage is relevant to your work.
Use prayers that are relevant to what people in your group are experiencing. – Using the table of contents, you can find prayers that express what you or others in your group are experiencing right now.
Read a prayer to enrich your adult class. If you’re in an adult class at church or some other setting, you could use 52 Workday Prayers as a way of help people in the class learn to pray about the real issues of their work. Perhaps use one prayer a week for a year.