Prayer and the workday

Prayer and the workday
David Lisbona, Wikimedia Commons.

The Financial Times recently ran a piece on the value of meditation in the workplace. The article quotes several corporate managers discussing why and how they and their companies incorporate meditation at the office. “It helps you to get perspective and organise your thoughts,” says Jon Jagielski of Medtronic in an opinion echoed throughout the piece.

“There’s a need to reduce stress in the workplace and meditation is the best technique I know,” says Richard Geller of MedWorks, a company that runs several different corporate meditation programs. “You can do it any time, any place and anywhere — even for a second. It’s also very cheap: the return on investment is phenomenal.” Many companies apparently recognize the value; everyone from Reebok to Google to Twitter supports meditation in the workplace. The stress itself, according to Geller, stems from the way in which the modern world overworks our fight-or-flight response. What was once reserved for harrowing moments and life-or-death situations is now a constant.

That fight-or-flight reference reminded me of José Ortega y Gasset’s famous statement: “The most salient characteristic of life is its coerciveness: it is always urgent, ‘here and now’ without any possible postponement. Life is fired at us point-blank.”


Meditation as an antidote makes sense. So does prayer. The Psalmist talks about being in constant prayer: “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and [God] hears my voice” (Psalm 55.17). Then there’s Daniel. Daniel, exiled in Babylon, became a ruler over several dozen regional governors, and excelled in his performance because, as it says, “an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6.3). It also says that Daniel “got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God” (6.10). One complains, the other thanks. Both take themselves out of hubbub of the day and put themselves into the presence of God.

I’m no David or Daniel, but praying the hours is central to my spirituality — and my sanity. I carry a prayer book with me wherever I go. I have (yes, I’m admitting this in public) a “man bag” in which I keep a couple of slim volumes, including my prayer book. It’s with me almost everywhere, especially the office. I find that starting the day with prayer and going back to my prayer book during the day buoys me against the floodwaters. It helps me keep perspective. It helps me detach from the crises. Most of all, it helps remind me of the God by whose providence the whole melee is governed and directed for my good and my salvation. Here’s one particular gem that I typically pray several times a day:

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.

The day may be crazy, but God is good. What more do you need to worry about?

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  • stephanie tresner

    shout out to the murse/man bag!

  • Ali

    I am an Orthodox Christian. I carry a prayer book in my purse in addition to a small notebook with religious notes/sayings. I find comfort in having both near me even if I don’t always look at them. I have several of the psalms memorized, such as 8, 23, 51, and 63, that I like to pray during the day. I also like to pray the Lord’s Prayer. I am not always “good” about saying my prayers during the day, but I do feel more grounded when I do so.

    PS I read your post about writing in your books and really enjoyed it. I, too, like to write in my books. And I want your library! (I am referring to the picture of you in front the computer surrounding by your books. ) Best of luck with your biography on Paul Revere.

  • Joel J. Miller

    Ali, thanks for the encouragement on Paul Revere. I hope to be done soon. I envy your memorization of the Psalms. I really need to do that myself. I frequently recite Psalms 51 and 91 in my prayers. Would be wonderful if I could pray them from memory.

  • Here’s a great line or two from the guy who wrote the book on the urgent. And I think it makes a great argument for the necessity of contemplation/prayer. Rediscovering the center.

    “Man is never so truly and fully personal as when he is living in complete dependence upon God. This is how personality comes into its own. This is humanity at its most personal.”
    —Charles Hummel, Tyranny of the Urgent

  • dude …. great stuff.

    Digging the new pic up there, as well. Hilarious. It’s like you’ve got something hidden back there that you don’t want us to see … I’d have said previously that you did – and that it was your purse. But, now that you’ve come clean on it, I’m not so sure … though, curious nonetheless.

  • I have trouble with staying in the presence of God during my day and I would love to have a prayer book. Are there any ones you would recommend that I can find online??

    Thanks and this was really motivating.

    • Andrés: I use the Book of Common Prayer (1979) and A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers. They both have very beautiful prayers and the services themselves are very worshipful. You can get them both inexpensively on Amazon. You can also get the BCP online here. The BCP is used for pretty much every service that happens in an Anglican church so it might seem like overkill in some ways. But it has some very useful prayer services for morning, noon, and evening — some for personal devotion and others for corporate worship. It’s all really good. Whatever you do, don’t feel intimidated by it. Just wade in and use what works for you. Pretty soon, the book is like second nature.

  • I struggle with one phrase from St. Philaret’s prayers: “Pray Thou Thyself in me.” Any insight? He ends both his morning prayer and his prayer for the acceptance of God’s will with that phrase and I can’t get my mind around it…

    • Pete: That phrase happens to be one of my favorite lines in those two prayers (I love and use them both). I think he’s getting at what Paul says in Romans 8.26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

  • That’s the direction I take it too, but it seems like he may be hinting at something even deeper than the Spirit praying for us. He says “in me” as if God would pray through us if we will let him or that we are the place in which God’s activity in prayer happens… The significance of each individual word to the meaning of what is said can sometimes be rather frustrating!