For Labor Day this year, I invite you to ponder the pattern of your life – looking at the hours you spend doing things – and the ways you pray for the various components of the pattern. I’ll use my own life as an example of what I’m inviting you to do.
Each week has 168 hours, and I sleep an average of 8 hours a night. I wake up really slowly, and of course I do things to get ready for bed. So I’m going to allow about 9.5 hours per day for sleep and the activities that surround sleep. That’s 66.5 hours, the biggest allotment of hours in my week.
I work about 35 hours per week on paid work and volunteer work. I work from home, so I don’t have commuting time like so many people do.
My husband and I babysit our granddaughter one afternoon each week for about 5 hours. Plus we host a weekly dinner for our kids and granddaughter. I usually do the cooking for that dinner. That dinner takes up about 5 hours per week total, so I spend about 10 hours a week with our kids and granddaughter.
I work from home, and my husband and I don’t eat out too often, so I plan and prepare 6 or 7 lunches and dinners each week, including a lot of leftovers. Leaving out the cooking time for the family dinner, I estimate I spend 6 hours per week shopping for food and preparing meals. But I don’t do any dishes! My husband and I eat those lunches and dinners together, which totals maybe 8 hours a week.
Here are my totals so far:
sleeping – 66.5 hours
work – 35 hours
kids and granddaughter – 10 hours
preparing and eating meals – 8 hours
That’s only 119.5 out of 168 hours in the week. That leaves 48.5 hours for exercise, time with friends, conversations with my husband, my women’s prayer group, church, household tasks, prayer times, lots of reading, and other miscellaneous things.
I’ve been comparing how I spend the hours of the week with how I spend my time praying. I read the news for 30 minutes or less every day, which represents only 3.5 hours per week, 2% of the time in the week. Yet my prayers for things happening in the world occupy much more than 2% of the things I pray for. Is that good? In my view, yes, for sure.
My kids and granddaughter occupy roughly 10 hours per week, 6% of my week. They occupy more than 10% of my prayer time. Again, that seems very right.
For me, work takes up 21% of my time. For many people, that figure would be much higher, when taking into account commuting, emails after work hours, and thinking about strategies for work when not working. I suspect that for most people, work is underrepresented in their prayer times. Yet many of us spend more time working than anything else we do except sleeping.
If you’d like to pray for your work more systematically, here are some ideas:
- God’s help on a daily basis. “Help me” prayers are my most common form of prayers for my work. I often ask for guidance.
- People. God is always concerned about relationships. We can pray for many aspects of relationships at work, both for our relationship with others, and for their well being.
- Tasks. Many specific tasks at work are worthy of prayer. We can ask that the tasks we do would serve God and people.
- Fruit. One of my favorite words is “fruitfulness,” the notion that our job is to stay grounded in God, and God will bring fruit from what we do. Fruit is long term, and we can pray for long term good things to come from our work.
- Placement. Am I in the right place in my work? Should I look for another job?
- Thankfulness. Don’t forget to thank God for the aspects of your work that you enjoy, and for the fruit that you can see.
These areas of prayer work well as we pray for others in their work life as well. For Labor Day this year, I encourage you to think creatively about how you pray for your work and for the work of the people you love.