All work is a holy endeavour, whether it be making a meal or working on an assignment. Our challenge in this day and age is to look beyond the temporal and view our work from a heavenly perspective. When we do this a subtle transformation takes place and the ordinary becomes extra-ordinary.
St Benedict viewed all work as “Opus Dei” the Work of God. A typical day was framed around eight prayer services interspersed with work, private prayer, reading, eating and resting. One type of work had no more credence than another and all types of work were equal and important. The under pinning tenet was, “that God may be glorified in all things.”
If we truly accept that all work has value then we will no longer baldly state , ” I’m just a housewife, carer or cleaner.” Cleaning the kitchen floor can be a prayer if undertaken with love.
Holiness in work is counter cultural and work is often viewed as something to be endured. In addition there appears to be a growing phenomena of folk ditching the 9-5 and following an alternative mode. Not a week goes by without another Joe Bloggs declaring they are on a quest of freedom and self discovery. However if we only follow our own desires we could be missing God’s precious imprint on our lives.
When we undertake an everday task with a spirit of mindfulness and prayer a change takes place. God breathes His life into the act and both we and the task at hand are transformed. The Celtic people fully understood this unification of work and prayer; there were prayers for cleaning, dressing, making a meal and milking a cow! Work and prayer are partners; they complement each other by keeping our feet firmly rooted in the soil of life and our hearts strongly fixed on the Love of God.
With this in mind, here are six ways of seeing your work in a new light:
- Set an intention for your day: From the moment we awaken to the moment we retire, thoughts buzz in our brain and the to do list seems never ending. Even before your feet hit the floor, spend just a few moments offering your day to God. It might be in the form of a formal prayer or just a quick, “Here I am Lord.” Spending just a few moments in quiet is a valuable way of making an intention for your day. With the intention set you can then progress to your to-do list and weedle out the unecessary items. Pick the top three urgent tasks and work on them before moving on to the next batch of three on your list.
- Pray before you begin and end a task and in this way you sanctify the act. You can give thanks for gift of work whilst remembering those less fortunate. Depending upon the nature of your work you can also offer a prayer for those in a similar profession. It can sometimes help if you imagine that God is with you as you work through the task. Certain types of work can be isolating and to know that you have a heavenly helper working with you is comforting.
- Explore your work: Write a list of all the tasks ascribed to your work. Reflecting on our work encourages us to see the value in what we do and make any necessary changes in our working practice. Remember that work is not only associated with a paycheck. Work is what you do, whatever that is, be it from home, outside the home or volunteering.
- Dealing with the work doldrums: When you have lost heart and work has lost its meaning. St Benedict had a word for this dilemma and it is known as “acedia.” We can all become listless in our work but when the restlessness takes hold it can be quite desperate. Now is not the time to “jump ship!” Let go of any self doubt and make a conscious effort to stick with the task at hand. Ask for help both practically from co workers and family and spiritually in your connection with God. He is your best coach and cheering squad rolled into one! Finally continue to reach out to others. Put yourself in the service of others and look for gratitude in the moment, your spirit will be revived and balance restored.
- Find the elusive work and life balance: Keep a log of all your activities over a given week. This list ideally needs to include work, rest, prayer, family time and relaxation. Your aim is to find the Goldilocks “sweet spot” of “just right.” so that all activities are in balance and that not one item dominates your day.
- Arrow Prayers these are ideal when you might only have snatched moments in between tasks. They might only consist of one word, “Help!” but they still have value. Never underestimate a heart and mind directed heavenward.
We are not alone in this world; we have others to think of and a kingdom to build. As you cross paths with people each day, think about how their work is important to you and others. What would happen if every person believed that their work was of value not just for living but for building the kingdom of God?