The Unity of Prayer and Work

In this passage from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, he wants to get across that our daily jobs, which can often seem disconnected from our devotional life with God, are actually designed by God to be an act of service or worship to him. The key to enjoying and finding fulfillment in our work is realizing that there is a “unity” of our morning prayer time and our 9-5 labor. Note: When Bonhoeffer speaks below of the “it,” below, you can substitute the words “task” or “job” or “assignment” to get the same basic meaning.

Work plunges men into the world of things. The Christian steps out of the world of brotherly encounter into the world of impersonal things, the “it”; and this new encounter frees him for objectivity; for the “it-” world is only an instrument in the hand of God for the purification of Christians from all self-centeredness and self-seeking . . . The work does not cease to be work; on the contrary, the hardness and rigor of labor is really sought only by the one who knows what it does for him. The continuing struggle with the “it” remains. But at the same time the break-through is made; the unity of prayer and work, the unity of the day is discovered; for to find, back of the “it” of the day’s work, the “Thou” which is God, is what Paul calls “praying without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5:17) Thus the prayer of the Christian reaches beyond its set time and extends into the heart of his work. It includes the whole day, and in doing so, it does not hinder the work; it promotes it, affirms it, and lends it meaning and joy. Thus every word, every work, every labor of the Christian becomes a prayer; not in the unreal sense of a constant turning away from the task that must be done, but in a real breaking through the hard “it” to the gracious Thou. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Col 3:17)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1954), 70-71.

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About Eric Smith

Sinner saved by the grace of Jesus, husband of Candace, father of Coleman and Crockett, West Tennessean, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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