At Work

Are Spiritual Disciplines Meant for My Work?

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Spiritual disciplines are meant for the early morning or late into the evening, right? To be practiced before breakfast and work, or after dinner has been cleaned up and the kids are off to bed?

Understandably, many of us tend to link the concept of spiritual disciplines with a daily devotion time, which—for many—tends to take place at the start or close of the day.

This understanding limits the reach of spiritual disciplines to a small portion of each day. In doing so, we section off the day into chunks.

Mornings are for “quiet time” (thus, the spiritual piece), the middle of the day is for work, and evenings are for family and relaxation (relationships and rest).

This approach suggests that our lives are not holistic, but segmented—divided.

Hugh Whelchel calls this tendency of dividing the sacred and secular “one of the great sins of the American Church in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” He reminds us that all of life is spiritual. Nothing is merely secular.

When we recognize that the sacred/secular divide is a fallacy, my above question receives a hearty “No.” Spiritual disciplines are meant for the holistic, all-day-every-day life.

This means they can be (and are meant to be) integrated into the workplace—no matter where you work.

Spiritual disciplines are not limited to a certain population of believers. They are not reserved for the “extra spiritual,” or the severely struggling.

They are just as much for pastors as they are for plumbers. They are for healing addicts, healthy caregivers, busy schoolteachers, and stay-at-home parents. Baristas, cashiers, architects, CEOs…you get the picture.

In her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun illuminates the church’s use of spiritual disciplines throughout history:

From its beginning the church linked the desire for more of God to intentional practices, relationships and experiences that gave people space in their lives to ‘keep company with Jesus.’

This collision and cooperation between desire and discipline are central to understanding the value of such practices. Without desire, discipline would be driven mainly by grit or legalism.

Yet, without discipline, desire remains only a fleeting vapor—something intangible, and therefore unattainable. When discipline is fueled by desire and desire pursued through discipline, actual, noticeable growth can occur. More specifically, in the words of Calhoun, we can better “keep company with Jesus.”

Returning to the holistic nature of the Christian life, keeping company with Jesus ought to be sustained throughout the day. He is not companion and Lord only when a Bible is open in the lap. We don’t leave him on the shelf with our devotional books and prayer journal.

Even when we are not cognizant of his presence, he is always with us. Spiritual disciplines help us to grow in a particular area of the faith, and to become more aware of God’s presence and our dependence upon him throughout each day.

In other words, the outcomes are specific (e.g., freedom from an addiction to busyness), as well as broad (e.g., growing awareness of God’s continual presence and dependence upon him).

Living a consistent, holistic life in which everything is spiritual requires intentionally connecting the dots between the various spheres of our lives. Creatively look for ways to do this, weaving practices into your daily workflow. May you bear much fruit!

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  • Stuart

    Hi Jessica,

    Thank you for such an interesting and well written article. I have been trying to understand how to integrate disciplines into my work day for quite a while. Most disciplines tend to remove the person from everyday activities requiring space and time to connect with God e.g.solitude and silence, examen or lectio divina etc hence get pushed to the extremes of the day when space exists. On the other extreme simple practices like arrow prayers when you meet someone or simple breathe prayers on entering a meeting or sipping a coffee are encouraged to help you stay connected to God throughout the day which are all good and helpful.

    I have a great desire to practice the “with God life ” and being yoked to Christ but wonder how can I be more intentional about selective disciples aligned to business practices e.g planning, meetings, marketing, finance, driving improvement, human development etc, Also,, how should a person handle disappointment and failure yet has actively engaged with God in marketing decisions that have produced no results and can only be looked upon as a failure and bad stewardship.

    Intentionally weaving practices into the workflow I think is key as you suggest but how do we eliminate the sacred secular divide in practice and experience God’s presence each step of our day at an intentional level aligned to our business practices in a secular environment?

    Any further light you can shine on this extremely important subject would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for taking time to write such an important article.

    Blessings on your work.

    Stuart

    • Jessica

      Stuart,

      Thank you very much for your kind words of encouragement. I am so pleased that this article is sparking thoughts and considerations of how we are to integrate our faith well into every aspect of life, especially the workplace.

      You ask a very important question regarding the elimination of the sacred/secular divide in practice. Accomplishing such can be a difficult (and daily!) feat, even in a “Christian” or “faith-based” environment. Working in an environment not even founded on biblical principles can present an even greater challenge.

      We are all learning, and my experience is limited, but I would share at least this: such an elimination starts with the individual and his/her relationship with God. How well do we know him? How often do we sense his guidance, hear his voice?

      That may sound very simplistic, but it is the very essence—the starting place—for living out our faith authentically in all things.

      One of the foundational aspects of this is prayer.

      As each each individual’s work situation is distinct and unique, I cannot prescribe anything specific for your business context, but my encouragement would be to start with developing a deep life of prayer outside of the workplace that can then begin to be implemented into the workplace. Through growing in discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit in the quiet of the morning and the evening, discerning his guidance throughout the day should become increasingly more clear. Seek his guidance, too, in determining additional ways you may want to work spiritual disciplines into your work.

      Hope this helps. Peace be with you.

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