Work can be kind of a loaded word. When we hear the word "work", it probably conjures up a set of feelings or thoughts, depending on the context. Maybe for some of us, it makes us feel tired. For others, it feels exciting or energizing. Still others may hear "work" and feel pressure or a looming sense of needing to measure up somehow.
Come to think of it, work carries quite a few different meanings. (Gotta love the English language.) We use the word "work" when we're talking about something working or not (as in, does it function properly?). When there is problem, we say we need to "work it out". Exercise often involves a "workout". We also use the phrase "good work!" to compliment someone on a job well done. And those are just a few off the top of my head.
I looked up "work" in the dictionary and discovered there is a good half page dedicated to this word. Plus there is almost an entire additional page of words that include "work" in combination with other words - workbench, workbook, workforce, workplace, etc. etc. etc. Clearly work is a fairly important and prevalent word in our world.
But what about work when it comes to God's kingdom? I wonder how often we consider that prayer itself is a kind of work. Could it be that our praying is not only as important as our "other work" but possibly even more so?? There is a story in the Bible when Jesus' disciples were unable to cast out a demon, and when they asked Jesus about it, He said, "This kind can only come out by prayer" (or some translations say "by prayer and fasting"). What are we to learn from this story?
We are people who are generally fairly driven to work. It feels like it's built into our DNA. We teach it to our kids. We place a high value on work, especially work that seems to get results. We want to have something to show for the work we do. Otherwise why keep doing it?
I think work is in fact a good, God-ordained thing. God Himself worked in the story of creation for six days before resting on the seventh day. I just find myself wondering how prayer fits with work. Are we missing out on some of the most powerful work we could be doing?
Saint Benedict is known for a phrase called "ora et labora", which means "pray and work". He believed prayer and work were meant to be in partnership with one another. I've heard it said that we are to offer our work as our prayer and our prayer as our work. Is this possible? How do we get there?
I suppose at this point I have more questions than answers about how prayer and work fit together. But I am convinced that prayer itself is a powerful and unique kind of work that does more than we often give it credit for doing. And somehow, in a way that I don't really understand, fasting unleashes even more power in this work.
Wherever you are in your understanding of prayer, I hope you will embrace the idea that your prayers are good and beautiful and powerful work. The more we find ways to pray throughout our regular, walking-and-going-about-our-day kind of lives, the more I believe we will see changes take place. Maybe sometimes the changes won't be as obvious as a demon being cast out of someone, but maybe they'll be just as powerful, even if we can't see them.
So let's not give up this unique work we are called to do. Let's pray and maybe even bring back fasting as a regular practice within the church. (I recently learned that early Christians regularly fasted two days a week!) It could be that there are still some things that can only happen through prayer. With God's help and guidance, may prayer take its rightful place in the work of our lives.
Pray with me...
... that God will inspire many people within the ACSD community to do the work of prayer
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Matthew 9:38
... that God's Spirit will show us how to combine work and prayer in good and effective ways Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
... that prayer would be infused into every aspect of the work throughout ACSD
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
photo credit: Rhoda Denlinger
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory