Pray Before You Work


Most persons would agree that we are busier than ever. We work from home, participate in a conference call while in the car, and think about work at the dinner table. Calendars are crammed to capacity so now we borrow from Sunday to make the weekends meet. In fact, it is getting harder and harder for God to get a word in as our attention span shrinks along with the number of available hours on Sunday for worship and fellowship.

But, all work and no pray makes the Christian life a disconnected one. Instead, we are to work in conversation with God. We were created to be in constant communion with God—not our phones or secretaries. Somewhere along the way, we began to believe that Christianity was a Sunday morning commitment, that if we left the bulletin on the pew that we left God there too. We would pick up where we left off with God next week. Same time, same pew.

So often, we give no thought to taking God home with us. Jesus talked about the homelessness of divinity to his disciples. Luke records the conversation. Jesus said to them, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (9:58). Mystically described as “the Word made flesh,” it is difficult to hear that there is no room for God, especially with our bulging cell phone data plans (John 1:1).

Martin Luther said, “Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.” It is frightening that he felt this way without Wi-Fi, an iCloud or a dropbox. But, what is noteworthy is the way that he dealt with his busy-ness.

Luther argues that prayer prepares us for work, that prayer enables us to work. And he’s right. Without prayer, we are not equipped to perform well. The differences between quality and quantity are clearly evident here as “a little talk with Jesus” gives us perspective and empowers us to work for God’s glory.

I have found this to be especially true in sermon preparation. I have nothing to say to the congregation until I have talked to God. The words simply will not come. Martin Luther concluded, “To pray well is the better half of study.” Those conversations with God are better than any commentary.

And it is a message from God so it would seem logical and necessary to ask God what should be shared. But, for so many, it is not. With shorter services, pastors are pressured to make three points and to make them fast! We are simply too busy to listen to God and to listen out for God because we have so much work to do.

But, I would encourage us to pray before we work. I would even add that we should pray while we work. If not, then it is merely busy work, unguided and without a goal. Pray and then work. Get the directions before you begin to assemble your day. To do the reverse is going to take way more time and you are simply too busy for that.

smcneillReverend Starlette McNeill* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email