June 1st Resolution; ora AT labora – UPDATED

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

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Chris

    Okay, I know this is nitpicky, but… the year isn’t half over until July 1st… six months ago you were making Advent resolutions, not New Year’s ones, because it was December 1st six months ago.

    Having nitpicked, I love this post… ora *at* labora indeed!

  • mary’s hopefull

    Lovely! With God’s help, I will apply this! I imagine it will be a stumble on my part; that’s where His help comes in.
    By the way, it has only been 5 months since Jan 1, so today you regain a whole month til the half-way point of the year!
    (And, if I had to take one blogsite to a desert island, it would be yours.) *love*

  • sheena

    You have no idea how perfect this post is for me today. I feel really fortunate to have stumbled across your blog. Thank you.

  • Mark L

    Well, since it is June 1st, it is time to make your Glorious First of June resolutions — as advocated here:


  • http://www.bluepencilu.com Steve

    I’ve done this nearly everyday on the way to work, but never before I begin a new task. It’s a great idea. One that I will try.

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  • Anita

    Thank you, Anchoress, for the reminder to pray for those who are looking for work. My husband was laid off April 1, and we have been hoping and praying that he will soon be earning money to support the family.

  • Wolfwood

    The Benedict’s Toolbox link provided one of the more interesting Amazon reviews