You start out the day with the best of intentions. You commit to setting aside time during your day to pray morning prayer, or the Rosary, or attend daily Mass. But by the end of your day you find that you weren’t able to take any time for prayer. There was just so much to do.
Or maybe you’re the opposite. You pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet faithfully every day. You go to daily Mass, spend an hour in adoration, and volunteer at the Church as often as you can. But at the end of the day you find that you’re falling behind in work or school. Your family is neglected because you pour most of your time and energy into various church ministries. There is just so much to do.
While most people probably fall somewhere in between these extremes, it can be incredibly difficult to find that work-prayer balance. We can often look at work and prayer as parts of life that are in opposition, and feel like we’re never doing enough of either.
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on the importance of work-prayer balance, how difficult it can be to find it, and yet how much more fulfilled we can be in life when we are following the Lord’s will in all aspects of our life.
“I know that sometimes people feel like their prayer is an interruption to their day,” Father Matthew said. “They think how could I ever pray the Rosary every day? I’m so busy. I can barely make time to chat with my spouse at the end of the day before finally just being overwhelmed, calling it a night, and trying to get a little bit of sleep before another busy, hectic day begins. We imagine that there’s just no way we could ever shoehorn prayer into our day. It would just be too much of an interruption. We feel that those duties that we have in the spiritual life and in our Christian lives can be a burden or an obligation. I have a different perspective I want to give you though.”
Father Matthew shared a prayer that he has prayed many times during Midday Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. But this time when he prayed it he was struck by the meaning of the prayer. The prayer was:
God of mercy, this midday moment of rest is your welcome gift. Bless the work we have begun, make good its defects, and let us finish it in a way that pleases you. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Father Matthew explained that what stood out to him in this prayer was the concept of prayer as a gift. Often we see prayer as an interruption to our work, but when we weave prayer into our day and look at it as a gift it can actually help us in our work.
“The opportunities that God gives us should be recognized as a gift, should be welcomed as a gift,” he said. “They should keep us continuing throughout the day to be productive, to work hard, to be diligent in our duties and our responsibilities toward the Lord.”
Explaining how prayer and work are not in opposition to each other, but rather both gifts from God, Father Matthew said, “The truth is that God has given you both times of prayer and times of work. He’s given you times in which you are called to rest and times in which you are called to labor. It’s this amazing dynamic in our lives, this amazing balance, this equilibrium that we constantly have to look for. On the one hand, we work hard, but also we should be praying very regularly, finding rest in that prayer, finding an opportunity, a moment of encounter with the Lord.”
What are some ways that you can welcome prayer into your day as a gift of rest and relationship? What are some ways that you can be more diligent in your work and recognize it as a gift to serve the Lord and others? Father Matthew encouraged listeners to prayerfully look at their everyday lives and look for ways that they can find more work-prayer balance.
“Prayer is not an interruption to everything else, just as our work is not an interruption from our relationship with God,” he said. “But rather, everything that we do, all that we do can be done for the glory of God, and all of our time can be spent serving the Lord.”
“My encouragement to you is to discern and recognize how God is calling you in your life to live this dynamic of prayer and work. It’s a dynamic that all of us have to find, all of us have to be careful to discern, and to live out well.”
Listen to the full reflection below: