First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what does it actually mean to pray continually when my everyday life is so crowded with activities and work? How do I make God the very substance of my life and not just one of the many things in it? Working on a fast-paced cardiac floor, I usually have little time to even use the bathroom while at work, let alone contemplate God, so these questions really cause me to pause. Considering I spend over half my waking hours at my job, how do I take what I do at work and give it to Him whom I love so much?
A Simple Look Toward Heaven
Oftentimes, I feel like I get caught up in the idea that I must be alone in the chapel in order to pray. Although this is necessary and good, prayer is not confined by the limits of where I am. Instead, prayer is a relationship with God and exists in every moment in everything that I do. Anyone can cultivate this relationship with God regardless of his or her surroundings. St. Therese of Lisieux powerfully said, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” Prayer then is seeing Christ in each and every person we interact with every day. It is offering to God all the trials, struggles, and works of your day. It is giving God permission to meet us where we are in our everyday, mundane tasks. Whether working from home, in the office, or in the hospital, each of us has the ability to pray continually by connecting all that we do with Christ.
As a little girl, I was in a group called “the Little Flowers” where we learned about the saints, various virtues, and living holy lives. One activity that we did was to make sacrifice beads, similar to the beads St. Therese of Lisieux used to remind her to make little acts of love and sacrifice to God. Sacrifice beads are a set of ten beads with a crucifix on the end; a person pulls a bead closer to the crucifix every time he or she makes a sacrifice. As a little girl, I loved carrying my pretty pink and blue beads around with me and seeing how many I could pull in a day. Although this was mostly due to my competitive nature and my desire to out-sacrifice my sisters, it still taught me, and continues to teach me, the importance of remembering to look for ways to sacrifice in my daily life, whether that means offering up my daily commute, the tiredness I feel at work, or having to deal with a difficult patient or family. By no means do I always achieve this, but often just simply saying to myself, “I give this situation to you, O Lord” really helps change my attitude from feeling like a victim to having self-giving love.
Inviting God In
Another great saint, St. John Paul II, also gives great suggestions on ways to find God in the workplace based on his life. In Jason Evert’s Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, he details the many, many trials St. John Paul II faced and his continual refocusing on and trust in God. One profound passage describes how St. John Paul II would kneel in the middle of the chemical plant where he worked during part of the Nazi occupation and pray the Angelus at noon. St. JPII realized that God was the center of his life and he continually strove to invite God into his everyday work, joys, and struggles. This passage continues with this “After his night shift, he’d walk in denim overalls and wooden shoes on his bare feet to an early morning Mass in order to seek God’s help to carry on another day. Because weekends were not times of rest, he likely worked for hundreds of consecutive days without interruption.”(p.16) St. John Paul II knew that without Christ he could do nothing, but with Christ he could face any suffering or trial. Although kneeling down at noon to pray the angelus may be impractical for many, for the vast majority of people it would be possible to take a moment at noon to pray a Hail Mary or a similar prayer.
What Can I do?
In addition to that, what are some other practical ways to bring our daily focus back on God in everything we do?
Start the day in prayer. Whether it is the Divine Office or a simple Morning Offering such as “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I offer you this day, all my thoughts, words, desires and actions. Help me to do everything for you,” offer all that will happen to you to Our Lord at the beginning of the day.
Pray before meals. This may seem so simple, but it can be surprisingly difficult to make the sign of the cross at work. But, just do it!
Offer a prayer at noon to God, whether the Angelus or a quick Hail Mary.
Strive to see Christ in every person/coworker/patient/client with whom you interact, no matter how annoying or demanding they may be.
Have a special intention for the day/hour and offer each hour up to God for that intention by saying a quick prayer at the start of the hour, such as “I offer you the works of this hour for our nation, for my family, for a special intention” etc.
Go to Mass or the chapel after or before work to refocus and to ask God for the strength and grace needed for that day.
Pray the Memorare while washing your hands. Fun fact: the length of time it takes to say the Memorare is approximately 20 seconds - that’s the recommended length of time to adequately scrub your hands when washing.
But most importantly, every time you fail, just get up and try again! Each of us will most likely fail many times every day, but that is ok. Holiness is gained in the continual striving for God and in following His Will. So just keep striving!
Let’s stop making excuses that we are too busy or too tired to pray, but instead let's take the wonderful examples of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. John Paul II and live every moment for Christ. I challenge you to decide right now to do one new thing each day to allow Christ into your daily life. Make one of these a daily habit and I know you will start to see more clearly the fruits of grace in your life. Let us strive for virtue and Heaven together!
Beth Kubisch is a nurse at Mayo Clinic. In her spare time you will find Beth hanging out with friends, curled up with a good book and cup of coffee, exploring the great outdoors or playing with her eleven nieces and nephews.