Accessing Spiritual Capital in the Workplace
According to the Small Business Administration, most new businesses fail within the first few years because they are underfunded. Sad but true, success in business is impossible without resources. But did you know that we can be spiritually underfunded too? If we fail to pray about our work—whether we're dealing with budgets, office conflict, legal issues, strategic plans, or our career goals—we're headed for disaster.
If you've never thought about praying about such things when you're at work, don't feel badly, because you're in good company. Jesus' own disciples had a similar disconnect between their faith and their work. At least four of them were professional fishermen. Their power zone was the Sea of Galilee—an environment they understood well, and the last place they ever dreamed of needing God. Sure, they knew that Jesus could heal and feed a multitude, preach a moving sermon, and even change water to wine. But what did Jesus and faith have to do with boats and navigating the Sea of Galilee—their workplace? Yet caught in a storm that threatened their lives, they woke him up crying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" to which Jesus responded, "'Where is your faith? "
On that day some burly professional fishermen learned in no uncertain terms that Jesus was the Lord of their workplace as much as he was Lord of their synagogue, and he had more ability in his little finger than all of their combined abilities, experience, and expertise gained from years on the water. And he was not only able but willing to bring his power to bear in their workplace.
What's our take-away from this passage? First, Jesus' power is not reserved for mission projects in third-world countries and religious activities at church. His power applies to boats and big waves and other real-life stuff we deal with on the job on a daily basis.
Second, he is always present and ready to move beyond our frail competence, inadequate resources, and limited thinking, and bring his power to bear in the ordinary parts of our lives, as well as in our most challenging dilemmas.
When God says "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you," he wasn't just talking about church. He means every moment of life, in every area of our existence—including our work. That's a reassuring promise considering today's economic environment.
The next time you're dealing with a knotty problem or wrestling with a hard decision, remember: His promise for guidance is as true at work as it is anywhere.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them . . . (Isa. 42:16)
And, he wasn't just talking to missionaries when He promised:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed,
for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa. 41:10)
Accessing God's Power in Our Work
In my previous article based on Colossians 4, I outlined new attitudes that should characterize every Christian's work. Paul tells us, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." A Monday morning faith goes to work not in my strength, but God's strength.
In those few words Paul tells us how we should pray and why we need to pray.
We should pray persistently. The Greek word translated "devote" means "to attend to constantly." In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing." This doesn't mean sneaking off somewhere to talk to God. It means going through the day with a stream of consistent consciousness of God's presence and interest in our work. It means we can carry on a private conversation in our mind, asking Him for wisdom and strength in any situation. It means that even when we get distracted, given a moment's pause, our thoughts return to God like a bird to its nest.
We should also pray dependently. The Greek word translated "devote" is a combination of two Greek words: pros which means "unto" and kratos which means "strength," "dominion," or "might." In other words, Paul is telling us to lean into God's strength. By praying, we declare our dependence on God to do our work.
Most of us don't have trouble praying when storms roll in. However, it's not just in the storms we need Jesus. We need him in the ordinary transactions of the day—especially at times when we feel most competent and confident and think we can handle things on our own. Remember the Sea of Galilee?
Lest we lose perspective, is there anything that we use or produce in our work that can't be traced to God's good hand? Where do the raw materials come from? Where did our expertise come from? Remember Moses words, "You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth . . . " (Deut. 8:17-18).
So, we are to pray about our work because God is the source of life and strength behind everything we do, and we are dependent on him for everything. We simply can't afford to leave God back at church if we want to be successful at work, both personally and spiritually.
The Bottom Line
Falling asleep spiritually on the job or forgetting how much we need God every day is easy to do. But when we do, we do so to the harm of ourselves, our fellow workers, our business, and the Kingdom of God.
None of us can do the work God gave us to do in our own strength. Wake up to God's spiritual capital waiting for you at work tomorrow. Recognize the importance of prayer at work.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Why do you think it is so easy to fall asleep spiritually at work and forget God's presence and interest in your work?
- What can you do to remind yourself of God's presence during the work day?
- Have you ever had the thought that you shouldn't bother God with the small things? But what is big enough to ask God about that isn't small in comparison to his power?
- Are there things you shouldn't ask God for at work? Why?
- Do your pastors pray for your work? If not, give them a specific request and consider asking them to start a workplace prayer ministry. For thoughts about this, read Mark D. Roberts' series on "Why Don't We Pray for Business?"
- For more, check out these resources at The High Calling: "I Am Here on the Job," "How to Pray About Your Work," "Working with Kryptonite."
Photograph used under a Creative Commons license.