EDITORIAL: Practical prayer

By NEMS Daily Journal

One of the unfortunate consequences of American preoccupation with prosperity is that making money becomes an end in itself, and even people of faith forget the biblically rooted belief that work is itself a spiritual practice intended to benefit more than any single wage earner.
The secularization of work falls all across the cultural, political and religious spectrum, including people of unrelenting religious certainty who believe they are complete in themselves and need nothing beyond their self-contained thoughts.
The history of Western Christian civilization does not support that idea, viewing work instead as one of many gifts and blessings within God’s providence.
The work ethic, in the main, has been viewed with a Judeo-Christian understanding in Europe and the Americas, but it of course also is acknowledged and honored in other religious, cultural and faith contexts.
Setting work in a spiritual context is as much a discipline as training for work and preparing physically and intellectually for work every day.
Many people in the Mississippi-Alabama-Tennessee area are familiar with an e-mail distribution called Prayers At Work, Inc., sent weekly by James Daughdrill, Jr., a former president of Rhodes College in Memphis. The mailing provides a scripture meditation and a prayer for anyone who wants prayer in their work day.
The practice of daily prayer related to work has many practitioners in history, all seeking focus and understanding of what matters most.
The Scots reformer, John Knox, believed each activity of the day should begin with prayer seeking God’s blessing, and his prayer before starting work is the historical record.
Knox wrote about prayer generally, “… Let us boldly ask of him whatsoever is necessary for us: as sustenance of this body; health thereof; defense from misery; deliverance from trouble; tranquillity and peace to our commonwealth; prosperous success in our vocations, labors, and affairs, whatsoever they are; which God wills we (should) ask all of him, to certify (to) us that all things stand in his regiment and disposition. And also by asking and receiving these corporeal commodities, we have (a) taste of his sweetness, and are inflamed with his love, that thereby our faith of reconciliation, and remission of our sins, may be exercised and increase.”
And before daily work, this was his prayer:
“O, Lord, we beseech you, that you would strengthen us with your Holy Spirit, that we may safely travel in our state and vocation without fraud or deceit; and that we may endeavor ourselves to follow your holy ordinance, rather than to seek and to satisfy our greedy affections or desire to gain. And if it please you, O Lord, to prosper our labor, give us a mind also to help them that have need, according that you in your mercy shall give us. And knowing that all good things come from you, grant that we may humble ourselves to our neighbors, and not by any means lift ourselves up above them that have not received so liberal a portion as of your mercy you have given to us. And if it pleases you to try and exercise us by greater poverty and need than our flesh would desire, O Lord, grant us grace to know that you will nourish us continually through your bountiful liberality, that we are not tempted so much that we fall into distrust.”
Prayers like Knox’s change both perspective and goals, replacing greed with grace, disregard with concern for others.
And in the context of our culture, it might make those who pray it not just civil, but kind.