This powerful phrase, Ora et Labora, translates into “pray and work” in English and it has been used primarily in monastic life for centuries. But the phrase doesn’t just apply to monks. This phrase could be applied to anyone, especially men and fathers. As men we are called to work just as we are called to pray, and must try not to think “work, then pray” or “pray, then work.” We have to remember that they go together!
So, how can you pray and work at the same time? This is not an easy task. In fact, between the challenge to “work and pray” as well as the challenge to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:13), I usually feel like I’m simply not qualified for the job. I tend to think, “Why don’t I leave that sort of lifestyle to the monks, who don’t raise kids or have the kind of stress that I have?” But that’s the devil working in my mind, and that’s not how I should think about the challenge of constant prayer in every aspect of my life.
The truth of the matter is that someone on fire for Christ and in love with him will want to be praying constantly. They will want to be in continual conversation with their beloved. Those that aren’t in love with Christ, but want to be (which applies to most of us) need to practice prayer all of the time, every day. Why? Because Christ doesn’t want some of you, He wants all of you. He loves all of you. And He wants all of you to be united to Him. Here are a few tips I’ve developed throughout life that have helped me to pray without ceasing and live a life of prayer and work:
#1. The Jesus Prayer – The Jesus Prayer is one of the most simple prayers you can imagine. It goes like this, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me a sinner.” You can say it mentally or quietly or whatever works for you. Saying this prayer throughout your day will keep you in a constant state of prayer and keep your mind on THE top priority: God! I encourage you give this a shot, and you might be surprised with the results.
#2. Pray before EVERYTHING – This might seem challenging, but once you develop the habit it is very easy to do and quite rewarding. In my day I can pray before some of the following actions: For example, I can pray before I eat breakfast, drive to work, start a task, start another task, eat lunch, drive home, eat dinner, watch tv, read a book, etc. Why do this? Because “Ut in omnibus glorifectur dues” translated “That in all things God may be glorified.” You will come to find out that if you start praying before all that you do, 1) you’re in a constant state of prayer, 2) you actually start to change what you do in light of asking God to make it fruitful, and 3) you start to seek ways to glorify God in all the little things you do every day
#3. Christian symbols – Using Christian symbols is a great first step to bringing Christ into your day-to-day life. Start small. Maybe put some crucifixes in your office or over your bed, maybe wear a men’s cross necklace, change your desktop background to any Christian symbol, tape some prayer cards to your desk . . . the ideas go on and on. By doing this simple task you’re going to find yourself reflecting on Christ and the mysteries of salvation more and more.
These tips don’t work on everyone, but if you leave this blog with any lesson or message let it be that loving Christ is not just something for one hour a week or even one hour a day, but rather every minute of every day. You might still be thinking: “Nicholas, you don’t understand what you’re asking!” I promise you I do, and I’m not the one asking, He is. And remember all of you have to do is make that decision to turn and open yourself to Christ and He’ll do the rest. That’s what He promised and that’s what He does. Do you have any tips you would add?