Ora et Labora

· Work,Life,Prayer,Routines

Pray and work.

As crucial as it is to have time set apart for prayer - set apart for our souls - we don't have to partition prayer off from the rest of our day's life. We must not.

We can pray as we go - pray as we do - pray as we live.

A phrase that's helpful for me is ora et labora. It's Latin for pray and work. That phrase dates back to the Rule of Saint Benedict, which was one of the early documents written in 516 A.D. to order the lives of those living in monastic communities. I didn't leave out a 1,000 in that year! It dates back to the 6th century and it endures today. It's helped me for years, as I've sought to weave my prayer life into my daily work.

There are over 300 references to work in the Bible, while there are only about 100 references to pray.

We are made to work!

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work. - Exodus 20:9

And we are told to pray.

Be constant in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12c

Praying at all times in the Spirit. ~ Ephesians 6:18

Continue steadfastly in prayer. ~ Colossians 4:2

Pray without ceasing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The only way we can obey those admonitions is if we pray as we do everything else. Perhaps not focused, fully formed prayer. Maybe only whispered words, muttered phrases, snatches of thought. But those are all prayer. And surely, even Godward work is a form of prayer.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as for the Lord, not for men. ~ Colossians 3:23

We're told to work:

for the Lord

with all of our heart.

Isn't it interesting that we're not told to work with all of our strength - but with all of our heart. Everything we're called to do, from the mundane to the demanding, is a work of heart. And it's done before the Lord, whether or not we're mindful of that.

Here's where another helpful Latin phrase comes in:

Coram Deo:

to live one's entire life in the presence of God,

under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

That's the Godward life.

It can take time and determination to learn to pray through the day. It's hard to rein in our divided minds - to keep them leaned in to prayer. As I go from my prayer time, I sometimes write a sticky with a word or a person's initials to slap on the kitchen counter or on my steering wheel or on the back of my phone - or I'll use a marker to write on my palm - all as reminders to be constant.

If we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we must not barricade Him into one portion of our life. We are set apart for Him, not Him for us.

In Him we live and move and have our being - whether at work or prayer - or both.

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Image: In a Cottage Garden by Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859-1929)