How to Pray about Work

Solomon has always been an intriguing character for me, if for no other reason than his famous prayer that was so pleasing to God.

You know the story. Solomon goes to Gibeon to sacrifice to the Lord. There, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” I Kings 3:4-5. Solomon had just become king, and instead of asking for the things all men hope and pray for–long life, wealth, fame–Solomon asks for the one thing that will help him most in performing his job well: wisdom in ruling. I Kings 3:7-9.

The Lord was so pleased with Solomon’s prayer for wisdom at work, He immediately answered it, and then he threw in riches and fame to go along with it. I KIngs 3:10-13. God was pleased because Solomon asked for that which was most important to being successful at his job. The Lord’s response highlights both the importance of our work and His willingness to help in completing it.

But it wasn’t just that Solomon asked for wisdom to do his job; It was pleasing to God that Solomon did not ask for a long life, riches, and fame. These are things everyone wants, but our want for them often interferes with what the Lord wants for us.

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What Your Work Says About You

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1.

God’s work discloses something about Him. It is a revealing of who He is. Work is that way. It manifests for all to see, what would otherwise be hidden. It is true of the work of God, and it is true of our work. People can’t see into our soul, but they can see our work, and our work reveals our soul. It reveals whether we are careful or cavalier, thorough or thoughtless, excellent or expedient.

This is the reason termination consistently ranks as one of the most traumatic events one can suffer behind divorce, death of a loved one, and terminal disease. Our work is an extension of ourselves, and when we are terminated we instinctively know it is not just a rejection of our work but a rejection of who we are. We are our work.

Unfortunately, people often don’t think of this until they are terminated. They produce sloppy work, neither caring nor realizing they are revealing something very personal and often shamefully deficient about themselves. It is ironic that people who would never reveal personal medical information at work, are every day hanging out their inner dirty laundry for the world to see and don’t even realize it.

God’s work declares His glory. What does your work declare about you? GS

Calling vs. Kingdom in Finding Meaning in Work

Not every one gets to do the job they feel they are ultimately called to do. 

Even those who do, do not always do so all the time. This is one of the shortcomings of looking solely to one’s calling to find meaning in one’s work. 

Moses was a shepherd before he was a deliverer, Joseph a prison trustee before he was a ruler, and Nehemiah a cupbearer before he was a contractor. Yet no one would argue Moses was ultimately called to be a shepherd, nor Joseph a jailer, nor Nehemiah a cupbearer.

One of my summer jobs between my first and second year of law school was working for a telemarketing firm selling the New York Times. There was no uncertainty in my mind; I was not called to ultimately be a telemarketer. I wanted to be a lawyer. 

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Glorifying God in your Work

Growing up in a religious culture can cause us to become inoculated to the meaning of certain religious words, especially if the words are used more in a religious context than in non-religious ones. “Glorify” is one of those words. It’s easy to gloss over the word and miss the full significance of the word.

Dictionary.com defines “glorify” as:

  1. to cause to be or treat as being more splendid, excellent, etc., than would normally be considered.
  2. to honor with praise, admiration, or worship; extol.
  3. to make glorious; invest with glory.
  4. to praise the glory of (God), especially as an act of worship.
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Jesus’ Work-Related Excellence

In John 8, the scribes and Pharisees bring Jesus a woman caught in adultery.

The scribes and pharisees did this to attempt to trap Jesus. (v. 6)

It’s a trap because the penalty for adultery under the Old Testament law was death, but if Jesus agreed to impose the death penalty, He would get crossways with the Romans, who alone reserved the right to impose the death penalty.

If Jesus showed mercy and didn’t apply the Old Testament law, then the scribes and Pharisees would have grounds for accusing Jesus before the Jews of not following Old Testament law.

Jesus’s response to this conundrum demonstrates He knew the law much better than those who attempted to trap Him: ““He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (v. 7). It is easy to read this too quickly as Jesus abrogating or superseding the law with mercy, but I do not believe that is what is happening here. Continue reading “Jesus’ Work-Related Excellence”