As a Director of Religious Education, prayer in the workplace is to be expected. In fact, quite often I’m even paid to do it. A huge part of my job involves praying with my students, my catechists, and my parents. Prayer in my place of work is commonplace, as it should be- since I work for a church.
But I am also allowed a different type of prayer while I’m at work. Because as any person in a ministry position knows, there is a huge difference between leading students in prayer and having personal prayer time. My time leading prayer services and retreats cannot and should not substitute for my personal prayer time. That’s not to say that I don’t pray when I’m leading my students in prayer. I do pray. But I also need time for just me and God.
The guidelines for my position give me a good amount of prayer time while I’m at work. I’m allowed to attend Mass regularly, and no one would stop me if I wanted to duck out of my office for a few minutes to pray during the day. A minister who is spiritually dry won’t be as effective as one who prays regularly. When I’m preparing for a meeting, or if I’ve had a particularly rough day, I’m encouraged to put my work aside for a bit so that I can pray through it. It might seem counter-intuitive, but I work better when I take some time during my day to pray. Even though I technically have less time to work because of my time in prayer, I actually get more done when I am at my desk. I am more focused, more productive, and more relaxed- all of which combines to create a better worker.
But not every workplace is as prayer-oriented as the church (and sometimes the church isn’t as prayer-oriented as it should be). Some workers’ jobs are too hectic to incorporate set times for prayer- doctors, nurses, and police officers for instance. Other workplaces just don’t accept that prayer can lead to a better environment with more productive workers. They see prayer time as counter-productive, since it’s time that could have been used for work. Unfortunately, there are a lot of employers who fall into this category. I think they could learn a lot from workplaces that allow their employees some time for prayer when needed.
Naturally, most employers in larger corporations won’t take the testimony of religious organizations seriously. Because of their nature as “religious,” churches are immediately suspect. Fortunately, churches are not the only places that value prayer time. Although they are somewhat rare, there are other organizations that recognize the importance and benefits of prayer. I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon one such workplace recently.
About two months ago, Andrew and I went to our first prenatal appointment together. While we were waiting for the sonogram technician, we were able to witness a very positive exchange between two of the nurses on call. They were both sitting at their computers, inputting data and swapping stories. As I filled out some paperwork for the nurses, pieces of their conversation reached my ears. One comment in particular continues to stand out in my mind, and serves as a constant reminder that I am blessed to be a patient at Tepeyac Family Center.
One of the nurses was relating to the other a story about a loved one greatly in need of prayer. The story-telling nurse sounded quite distraught, which was what drew my attention. Though it seemed that the first nurse’s only intention was to share her sad story with another person, the listening nurse made an alternative suggestion. Without missing a beat, she offered to cover her while she went somewhere to pray. The story-telling nurse, clearly surprised and appreciative of the offer, immediately rose to go and pray. She returned a few minutes later, looking visibly more relaxed. She sat back down at her computer and went right back to work.
In all honesty, I was amazed. Though I knew that Tepeyac was a Catholic institution, I assumed that such things would not be permitted outside of the church setting. I especially did not expect to witness such a thing in a doctor’s office. I have always taken it for granted that my choice of career would enable me to pray in the workplace, regardless of the parish that I happened to be working at. It never occurred to me that I should witness the same type of environment anywhere else, but it was refreshing and exciting to realize that prayer can be so highly valued at a workplace other than a parish. I was absolutely thrilled to see it in my doctor’s office. I just hope that in the future, I will see it in even more workplaces.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!