Monday morning I sat down to my desk piled with books, files, notes, all screaming at me: “GET TO WORK, RICK! YOU ARE WAY BEHIND.” I logged on to the computer, girded for a backload of emails, all of them shouting, “OPEN ME! READ ME! GET TO WORK!”
I scrolled through, reading, filing and deleting, muttering “Take that, you spam!” every time I could delete an unsolicited, unwelcome, shamelessly self-promotional, inconsequential piece of junk mail.
Then I paused at an email from my colleague Diana Aydin, headlined, “Guess who’s going to lead Prayer Fellowship this morning?” at 9:45 in the conference room, prayer time for anyone who wanted to attend in the office.
I looked at my watch, 9:44, and looked at all the work that needed to get done and had this urge to say, “Work first,” but Diana, who organizes the presenters for our prayer gathering every Monday morning, was telling all of us it was time, prayer time. Now.
Dutifully, grumpily, with the unholy heart of a self-pitying office martyr, I tromped into the conference room and sat down, grabbing a pile of prayer requests. If anybody had asked, I would have been glad to innumerate the sacrifices I had made to be there.
Then something in me changed.
Maybe it was compassion for the people whose requests I was reading, hearing of monstrous troubles that so deserved the Lord’s attention and mine. Maybe it was sitting around a conference room table with others who were paying attention to God’s goodness.
Or maybe it was just getting outside of myself for a few minutes.
I was glad to be there. Glad to let go of my own self-involvement.
We went around the room and read aloud a few prayer requests, adding some personal ones to the mix, praying for the jobless, the homeless, the hopeless, the sick, the discouraged, the lonely, the destitute.
Then our colleague Danielle Lyle read from the Bible, quoting from Proverbs 28:1, “The wicked run away even though no one pursues them, but the righteous are as confident as a lion.” She reminded us to be bold in our prayers, like lions, like the creative lion she is. And we prayed.
The work would get done–the work always gets done–and it would be done better, more efficiently, with greater kindness and certainly more passion by my being here first.
First things first. Pray, then work. Do them both because as St. Benedict reminds to work is to pray, no matter what you’re doing. But that only works for me if I put prayer there in the first place.
I headed back to my desk, happy to attack whatever the day would bring.