How should we pray about our academic work? One tool I have found helpful (though I have used it far less often than I ought) is to pray into each area of the contacts-context-content schema I described in a previous post.
Here is one prayer I wrote, related to the ‘context’ of my work. It’s not particularly well written, but it does reflect something I would love to be the case. Writing out prayers can be a great way to focus our minds and words; why not create a bank of three or four written “academic” prayers you can cycle through as you work.
Lord, I need you to prevent me taking pride in myself, and I need you to prevent me despairing of myself. Lord, I need you to keep me empty of my own sinful passions, and full of Christ. May he be precious to me in this work now. Lord, please work in and on me as I work now, and please work so that this work serves to make my heart united and not divided in my service of you. Teach me through this work now, Lord, to delight in nothing if I do not delight in it for your sake.
I can’t remember where I heard it, but someone once encouraged me to say grace before work, just like before meals. As I write this post I realise I have rarely acted on that wonderful advice, but I have got into the habit of praying as I walk from my office to give lectures. The prayers usually go something like “Lord, please help me to love and respect the students before me in this lecture, to give of my best in teaching them, and to treat them as human beings made in your image.”
One of the great resources for the praying Christian academic is the huge trove of inspiring meditations that have been written over the centuries. Here is one of my favourites, from Anselm of Canterbury in the Proslogion:
Come now, little man, turn aside for a while from your daily employment, escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside your weighty cares, let your burdensome distractions wait, free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him. Enter the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything except God and that which can help you in seeking him, and when you have shut the door, seek him. Now, my whole heart, say to God: “I seek your face, Lord, it is your face I seek.”
If you want to add more prayers that can be particularly useful to Christian academics, please use the comments section below.