I belong to a prayer group on Facebook. People post their intentions, and the other members pray. It’s a great use of social media.
The other day I posted, as I sometimes do, a request for the members to pray for a transaction I’ve been working on in my real estate business. It’s been stressful, and caused me some pretty significant anxiety. The other members, as always, were very supportive and assured me of their prayers. But then one very faithful member asked if I think it’s appropriate to ask for success in business negotiations. She wasn’t objecting, mind you. But apparently she had done the same on another prayer site, and was told this was not a proper topic for a prayer request. She went on to tell me that she thought it was perfectly appropriate, since her business is really an apostolate, and they make rosaries. Surely worthy of prayer.
And I started to wonder — are rosary manufacturers the only “businesses” we can pray for? Do we have to be somehow engaged in direct, Church-related ministry before God wants to hear what we’re up to?
I think, as Christians, we tend to divide the world — and our lives — into the “sacred” and the “secular.” “Sacred” is Sunday Mass. Prayer time. Evangelization. Work is only sacred if it’s for the Church, or directly related to evangelization. Everything else — our softball teams, the PTA, our grocery shopping, our non-pilgrimage vacations, and especially “the business world” — is purely “secular.” God is interested in the former. The latter, He doesn’t care about so much.
Is that true?
St. John Paul, in his encyclical Laborem Exercens, tells us that work is a fundamental aspect of man’s life on earth, and the place where he joins with God in His work of creation, and fulfills his early commandant to “subdue the earth.”
That same St. John Paul II, in his beautiful book Love and Responsibility, defines what he calls the “personalistic norm,” which states that the only proper and adequate response toward a human person is love. In the negative, because each of us is created in the image and likeness of God, no person can never be seen merely as an object of use.
The “business world” is simply the place where these two concepts meet. To me, that makes it a sacred place. And God cares very much what happens there.
When we walk into work on Monday morning, we don’t leave the personalistic norm at the door. We are persons created in the image and likeness of God, joining with other persons created in his image, to accomplish some work here on earth. And we are called to that as Christians — loving each other, doing our best, and through that bringing Christ into our workplace.
And we need his help to do that.
If we dismiss the “business world” as merely secular, we risk dismissing God from our lives during the 40+ hours we spent at work every week. And, to the extent that we apply these ideas to the “business” side of ministry, we corrupt that as well. I have been told by ministry leaders that poor treatment of their employees was justified because “We’re have to run it like a business.”
That’s not how any business, sacred or secular, should be run.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that “you have never met a mere mortal.” In the same way, I think you have never done anything that is merely “secular.” We are working out our salvation, every minute of every hour of every day. That includes our time at work.
Whatever the work you do, the God who has numbered the hairs on your head wants very much to be involved in it. He wants you to pray — for your co-workers, for your safety, for your mission. And yes, for the success of your endeavors, if that is his will.
Don’t forget to bring God to work.