Faith at work
It was 5:45 p.m., and most of the staff had left our law firm for the day. I wound down a project and ventured down the hall to my boss’s office.
Every Monday evening, he and I met to talk about what was happening in our lives and in the lives of our colleagues. Then we prayed for one another and the office. It was one of the most rewarding parts of my time as an estate-planning attorney.
This effort to bring prayer explicitly into my life at work had its genesis the year before, when I read John Mulinde’s “Set Apart for God.” Mulinde writes about setting up prayer altars and prayer time in all aspects of our lives -- at church, at home, at work and elsewhere.
It was natural to be intentional about prayer at church and at home, but I wasn’t sure what prayer with others at work would look like. I approached my boss, a longtime member of our church, with the idea of praying for our office. He thought it was a great idea -- until I told him my vision was that we would be praying together.
Our meetings at first were a little slow and awkward, but Monday evenings soon became a welcome escape from the intensity of our work. My days were filled with detailed focus on documents, case law and legal codes, as well as very personal sessions with clients preparing for death or dealing with the death of a loved one. My boss and I brought those details to one another and before God in prayer.
I soon found a deeper connection with my boss, as we shared not only the busyness of our days but a deeper calling to a more meaningful life than what we faced in each case file. We prayed for each other, for our work, for the members of the staff by name, for their families, for their struggles. I soon found that one focused time a week like this helped to frame much of what we did, not merely as a job, but more in line with our callings.
I now serve as an associate pastor and spend a great deal of my time helping parishioners discover and live into the unique call that God has put upon their lives.
Sometimes I run into situations where God is calling them to a substantial change -- like my experience of leaving the practice of law to become an ordained pastor. But most of the time what I am doing is helping people see and discover how their faith is not set aside for Sundays but is a driving force of who they are and how they live daily.
As Christians, we tend to compartmentalize our lives. However, as we begin to bring more of what we learn and live out at church, like our prayer life, into all other areas of our lives, we discover a deepened sense of meaning and realization of who God has created us to be.
I was thrilled to discover that the practices I learned as expressions of my faith at church were just as relevant in all other areas of my life. In my experience, my practices of prayer equipped my boss and me with an ability to share joys and hardships in our office, transfer burdens and struggles from work onto God and lift up fellow workers. What had seemed like an unusual ritual to practice in an office became a desired time of sharing and intercession for one another and our workplace.
In my work as a pastor, a key part of the training I do with laypeople is to help them imagine what living out their faith can look like outside the church: What are some ways I can bring prayer into my classroom at school? How can I serve the people who work for me? Some of my parishioners have told me they now walk around their offices to check on their staffs, and that simple gesture has encouraged staff members to share their struggles and ask for prayers.
The work of helping laity understand their vocations cannot be accomplished in a single conversation. Rather, it requires an imaginative shift among clergy, to see this work as part of their calling, and among parishioners, to begin to see their lives as their mission fields. It requires a new way of thinking about equipping all of the saints for ministry.
My parishioners are extremely gifted and creative within the four walls of the church, but I have to draw them out to dream and work with their faith outside these boundaries, in the ordinary situations of their lives. They need encouragement learning how to take the practices of their faith to their businesses, schools, nonprofits, law firms and other workplaces.
I show them how the gifts they use outside the church are gifts from God. I connect them with people who have lived out this integration, professionals who are disciples of Christ and experts in the fields in which they work.
As we begin to imagine and discover what it looks like to bring our faith, with its practices and its disciplines, outside the walls of the church, people are free to imagine and live out their beliefs in many new ways. The practices of our faith are not meant to be constrained to the church but instead birthed and built up in the church to be released into the entire world.
Do you integrate your faith with all aspects of your life? Do you equip those in your church to practice their faith outside the church? Most of these practices start with a small step, like praying for the office, and develop into something very deep and meaningful.
I invite you to bring your spiritual practices and gifts to all the areas where God has placed you and to see God begin to create opportunities for you to minister to those around you. You will quickly find that God has placed you in these settings to serve.
This is a reprint of the commentary that appeared in "Faith & Leadership" www.faithandleadership.com. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.