I came across an article by Gerald May on the “Prayerfulness of Work” and was ambushed by the verse he had at the opening and was not able to read further (Psalm 90:17). I want to take a minute to reflect on this verse and the few verses preceding it.
First, a little background – I’ve been trying to “bring God into my work” with intentionality and concerted effort for the last month or so. Toward this end, I’ve listened to the audio version of Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God multiple times on my way to work with great benefit. This 17th century saint has helped me see and believe that I could perform seemingly mundane tasks with a joyful focus and adoration of God while doing it. It’s a continual struggle for me, as I ebb and flow from profound feelings of meaninglessness and insignificance in my work to an awareness of God-with-me as I work, bringing significance to whatever I’m doing with him. My sense of calling and giftedness seem to lie dormant and inactive while at my current job, provoking these feelings of insignificance.
On top of this, I realized this week that I’ve never had a job that I actually enjoyed; I’ve always just done what needed to be done to pay the bills. I’ve pretty much given up hope that I will ever be employed doing something I love or that allows space for the expression of what is deepest and truest about me. Part of me wonders if this is just part of life and that I should just get used to it; I am also aware of a self-hatred that I want to address that judges myself unworthy of such a gift. “God blesses other people with stuff like that, not me,” this part of me says.
I find myself fighting for vision to see God in my work, as he invites me to work with him and bring my work into his. This is God’s Kingdom in action.
That said, I can turn my attention to Psalm 90:14-17 and offer a few comments.
(14) Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
(15) Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
(16) Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
(17) Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands! (ESV)
Verse 14 has always been a favorite one of mine; In this and the subsequent verse Moses is re-telling the story of Israel’s wandering rebellion in terms of crying out for a renewal in Yahweh’s love. The steadfast love (Heb. hesed) that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 32-34 shapes Moses’ prayer (and ours) into a renewed encounter with God. Once again, unless God reveals his love and mercy, God’s people will perish.
Verses 16-17 especially struck me as I thought about my work being brought into God’s work. Moses prays that God’s work be revealed, his glorious power made known. As I apply this, it helps me ask for God’s work to be revealed in my workplace. Find out where God is at work and join him there. If I don’t seek this, if I don’t ask for this, I will inevitably treat my work (what I do) as primary, and the only possible result of that is emptiness. It is orphan-work, work done by an abandoned one. It’s work where everything is up to me to make things work, to figure things out. It’s a horrible way to live.
In contrast to orphan-work is what I might call beloved-work. The beloved realizes profoundly the limitations endemic to any and all work outside the garden, and sees work as another opportunity for union with the Beloved Savior. The beloved observes, listens, seeks and asks. This asking and seeking pleases the Lord, and the result is that the “favor of the Lord” (lit. beauty, glory) rests upon us. With our work couched in an asking and seeking heart, looking to surrender our work to God’s work, we are then in a position to pray that he “establish the work of our hands.”
Calvin offers this comment on v.17, “Moses intimates that we cannot undertake or attempt anything with the prospect of success, unless God become our guide and counsellor, and govern us by his Spirit. Whence it follows, that the reason why the enterprises and efforts of worldly men have a disastrous issue is, because, in not following God, they pervert all order and throw everything into confusion.”
Our work is established as it is brought into his kingdom and his work. It is the work of the Lover and beloved, working together to shape created materials for good in God’s world, whether it’s crunching numbers, serving customers, changing diapers or crafting words.
Honestly, I’m not sure what this actually looks/feels like, as this is still fairly new to me. But I have learned enough to say that it emanates from an awareness of God-with-me, that he is with me in an interactive relationship offering help, guidance and wisdom as I do my work. The act of bringing my work under God’s may simply be this awareness enveloped by a general and loving sense of surrender of all that I have and am to Jesus and His kingdom.