At Work

Five Practices That Will Help You Integrate Spiritual Disciplines into Your Workplace

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If you’re anything like me, you intend to be in step with the Lord throughout the day, but realize (while brushing your teeth before bed) that you forgot.

You hardly talked to him all day, save a few desperate, hardly conscious “helps” and “pleases.”

How different would the workday look if your thoughts and actions were constantly informed and followed by prayer? What if you were actively thanking God for his blessings as they came?

Implementing spiritual disciplines into the workday can assist you in keeping company with Jesus throughout the day. As their name suggests, such practices require discipline, but the hard work and intentionality will pay off.

Knowing that there is no true sacred/secular divide, integrating practices for spiritual growth into your day will build a bridge from home and church into your workplace.

It is important to note that some disciplines, by nature, primarily require unique engagement outside of the workplace. Examples include spiritual direction, Sabbath, retreat, etc.

However, all spiritual disciplines have core, underlying concepts that can be carried over into various situations (e.g., Sabbath is comprised of periodic, guarded rest). With a bit of creativity, the workplace can still be a place where your particular area of desired growth is fostered.

In her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun categorizes various spiritual disciplines with the acronym WORSHIP:

  • Worship God
  • Open myself to God
  • Relinquish the false self and idols of my heart
  • Share my life with others
  • Hear the word of God
  • Incarnate Christ’s love for the world
  • Pray to God

These categories provide helpful classifications for each discipline based on the desired outcomes they foster.

Where to begin?

Below is a sampling of practices with ideas for how to integrate them into the workplace.

Gratitude

Related disciplines include thankfulness, celebration, and journaling.

Use breaks in your workday to refocus. Keep a journal or notepad to record what you are grateful for. Record things worthy of celebration, offering up a prayer of thankfulness to God.

Take some time on your lunch break to journal about the first half of the day. What went well? What could have gone better? How have you been keeping company with Jesus? How can you better focus your eyes on him as the day continues?

Put visual reminders around your workspace of God’s blessings in your life. These can be sticky notes with verses or photos of people you love, or a “gratitude list.” Thank him throughout the day as you are reminded of his goodness and faithfulness.

Slowing Down

In our fast-paced society, everything has to be done right now. It’s no wonder taking space to notice how God is at work can be a struggle in the midst of a chaotic day.

Focus on one task at a time. Rather than slowing down your pace—unless that truly is necessary!—be productive, efficient, and focused by giving attention to one task at a time.

At lunchtime, eat slowly. Chew each bite twenty to thirty times before swallowing. On your commute, try driving in the right lane.

Slowing down enables us to take notice, to allow for margin, to see God at work in the “little things” as well as the “big.” Merely rushing from one thing to the next can be unhealthy as it hardly leaves room for attending to the significance of what has just occurred.

Pause to reflect for a minute or two between various tasks on the job, processing  and attaining closure while preparing for what is next.

Silence

Related disciplines include control of the tongue, witness, and truth telling.

As most jobs involve verbal communication with other people, these disciplines can be especially fruitful to appropriate in the workplace.

Listen more and speak less in meetings. Give any speaker your complete, undivided attention. Ask coworkers about their weekends without a felt need to talk about your own. Spend your breaks, lunch hour, or commute without any “noise.” (Turn off the music, put down the book, stop playing the games; get alone—steep in the silence).

Practicing the Presence of God

Perhaps you’ve heard of Brother Lawrence or his book The Practice of the Presence of God. This 17th century Carmelite monk is well known for his endearing devotion to the Lord amidst his daily, menial tasks.

Practice God’s presence at work by talking with Jesus as you go about your projects. Apologize and ask his forgiveness when you slip up. Thank him for his presence and his love. Remember that he is a constant companion—attend to him as such.

Prayer

Prayer is broad, as it encompasses a wide array of specific ways of talking to God. Some work-friendly options include:

  • Breath Prayer—This practice is founded upon the praying of “a simple, intimate prayer of heartfelt desire before God,” as Calhoun explains in the Handbook. Choose a prayer, such as “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” to pray throughout the day. Use your breath as a reminder of this prayer. Breathe in—“Jesus Christ,” and breathe out—“have mercy on me.”
  • Centering Prayer— Calhoun explains that this practice is “to quiet the heart and rest in God alone” (Calhoun, 207). During breaks or between tasks, use the available time to “center” yourself, refocusing your attention to the Lord.
  • Fixed-Hour Prayer—Plan a schedule that fits well in your workday, pausing at appointed times to pray for several minutes.

Give these five practices a try. Integrate your life holistically, and may you experience the Lord increasingly more in the ordinary, menial moments of your day.

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  • Noval Smith

    Nice post! While I’m now retired, there’s still a lot to be learning about “practicing the presence” in my “new normal” days. After hearing about the book for years I recently purchased a copy of Richard J. Foster’s classic, “Celebration of Discipline”. This essay reminded me a lot of what I’m reading there. I really appreciate these blog posts. They always stimulate my thinking.

    • Jessica

      Great to hear! I have not read Foster’s book on disciplines yet, but have certainly received recommendations to do so. I am so glad these posts prove to stimulate towards growth. Blessings in your “new normal” — may his presence be ever nearer to you.

  • ChipWatkins

    This post would have been much more useful (and fulfilling) had it followed the WORSHIP acronym the author led with. For example, celebrate your work as part of your worship of God; be open to God’s interruptions of your day from colleagues or clients; relinquish false self by confessing when your advice is wrong, or you’ve let an assignment slip or been rude to a customer; share my life with others by mentoring or sharing expertise with colleagues; hear the Word of God by being faithful and diligent in our service to our employer; incarnate Christ’s love for our colleagues (especially support staff) and clients or customers; and pray concerning projects and clients or customers.

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