The motto of the Benedictines is ora et labora; pray and work.
In his Holy Rule, our Father Benedict writes that prayer should preface all activity throughout the day, so that a meeting should not take place, a meal should not be eaten, a guest should not be greeted or a specific labor should not be performed, until one has taken a moment to place oneself in the presence of God, and ask his blessing, and for the strength to do his will.
A monk may spend several hours in prayer, in choir, then go to breakfast and say grace before and after his meal, then go into the fields and pray before hoeing, only to keep praying as he hoes.
There are parents and businessmen who adapt the Rule to their lives (you can find a number of books on the subject of Benedict’s Rule being used in management and everyday life), and they too strive to begin each new endeavor or encounter with a prayer. It is a great habit to nurture.
I don’t always remember to pray before I sit down to work, but I can attest to the fact that when I do, my work is everything is different–and much better–than when I do not.
Today is June 1; half of the year has quickly fled. I don’t even remember what my New Year’s Resolutions were, six months back, but today I am going to make a half-year resolution: to try to cultivate the habit and virtue of ora AT labora, and pray more before my work, and in my work.
The smallest of resolutions, it may one that packs a wallop in its effect.
The prayer can, of course, be any small offering. I do like this little prayer by Brother Lawrence, from The Practice of the Presence of God:
Prayer Before Work
O my God, since you are with me and I must now, in obedience to Your commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech You to grant me the grace to continue in Your presence; and to this end do You prosper me with Your assistance, receive all of my works, and possess all my affections.
One can even offer one’s work up for the benefit of those who are looking for work of their own. That might be called, ora pro labora.
UPDATE: Do not miss Danielle Bean’s little gem of an essay on The Grunt Work of Grace