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Prayers of the People for the Work of the People

Right now, people are talking about the intersection of worship and work. Is corporate worship simply a place to leave our troubles at the door and refuel in the presence of Christ? Or is it a place wrestle—in the presence of God and fellow believers—with the challenges that face us in our weekday vocations?

In his research categorizing Christian’s approaches to liturgical worship in light of vocational work, Professor Cory Willson (Calvin Theological Seminary) noted that “One of the characteristics of those who had a more integrated spirituality that traversed freely between the realms of corporate worship and daily work is that there was intentionality about bringing their experiences from the week into their participation in the liturgy.1” He says this in other words: Rather than Sunday worship influencing Monday work, pastors and worship planners should recognize that this is reversed and that is OK.

One way we may recognize this influence is to spend time interceding on behalf of the vocations of our congregations. We may do this alone, in small groups, or publicly, as part of the prayers of the people.

What follows is a series of prayer resources I wrote for Thornapple Covenant Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during a sermon series entitled “God at Work.” Feel free to adapt these prayers to your own context, and to add specific prayers for workers in your congregation that may not be represented by my Midwestern context.

Prayer of Praise for the Work of the Creator God

Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We pray together now in Jesus’ name.

God, who created the earth in six days and called it “good,”
we praise you for your creation,
for the sun that keeps our planet warm, even in the winter,
for the moon that moves the tides.

We praise you for the bulbs under the piles of snow that,
in time, will grow and blossom.
We praise you for revealing yourself to us through the natural world,
through Scripture,
through the life of Christ,
and through the Spirit, who is present with us now.

Prayer of Confession

God, we remember that you gave our faith father and mother instruction to work,
to cultivate, to care, for this earth.
But too often, we forget that our work is a holy task.
We remember wrongly, thinking that work is a curse,
and forget how you, our Triune God,
have constantly worked through your acts of creation, redemption, and nurture.
Together, we confess our bad attitudes, our complaints,
and our mediocre efforts in the work you have called us to do.

Time of Silence

We praise you for your forgiveness,
offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus,
the servant of God,
the greatest physician,
the wisest teacher,
and the most wonderful counselor.
Amen.

Prayers of the People for the Work of the People.

Please continue with me in prayer. When I say, “Gracious God, hear our prayer,” please respond, “And in your love answer.”

King of Creation,
you have blessed some of us with work that we relish.
We wake in the morning, excited to contribute to your Kingdom.
We have sensed a clear call,
and have experienced your blessing.
For this we give thanks.

Others in your body, O Christ,
feel vocationally lost.
Some of us have little or no delight in our work.
Others lack direction, or feel bored.
Perhaps some of us wonder why we even finished school.
Others wonder why we didn’t.
Jesus, we pray for these brothers and sisters among us
who are greatly dissatisfied with their work.
May they discover the lightness of your yoke on their shoulders.

Gracious God, hear our prayer
And in your love answer.

For those who engineer, design or create,
give them delight in their opportunity to model your creating hands.

For those who repair roads, homes, clothing, and cars,
guide their redemptive work in our society.

For those who nurture children, parents, patients, plants, land, and animals—
may the love of God our Father overflow to those they touch.

Gracious God, hear our prayer
And in your love answer.

For the staff members of this congregation,
and the church worldwide,
fill them as they serve.

For those in leadership positions,
give them wisdom and discernment.

For the teachers and students among us,
may their work result in equipped citizens of God’s Kingdom.

Gracious God, hear our prayer
And in your love answer.

For the artists among us,
may they be filled with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge
in order to use their skill to point to the eternal.

For lawyers, judges, those in law enforcement, and government workers,
may you bless them with wisdom, and justice seasoned with mercy.

For those who help heal bodies, minds, relationships, and souls,
guide their hands to mend and their mouths to speak peace.

Gracious God, hear our prayer
And in your love answer.

For those who develop media,
may their content invite readers and viewers
into the breadth and complexity of your world.

For those who steward resources,
give them wisdom and guidance
to increase flourishing and delight.

For those who sell, serve or support the work of others,
may they, by their interaction with people,
encourage and advance your Kingdom.

Gracious God, hear our prayer
And in your love answer.

For those who are retired,
or who serve others without being paid,
guide them to use their time well
to bless others.

For those who seek work,
we ask for your peace and guidance for our friends.

We pray for meaningful work for the whole of our congregation.

Gracious God, hear our prayer
And in your love answer.

God of work and rest and pleasure,
grant that what we do this week may be for us an offering rather than a burden;
and for those we serve, may it be the help they need.2

We pray in the name of the creating, redeeming, and nurturing God.
Amen.

NOTE: Looking for additional resources or wondering where to learn more on this topic? Make sure you are subscribed to the print version of Reformed Worship as the next issue, RW 123 includes not only worship resources but also an article by Professor Cory Willson and others on this topic. (Go to reformedworship.org and choose the subscribe tab.)

Cory Willson, “The strategic role of culture-making vocations in a missionary encounter with American Society.”

2 This paragraph—”God of rest . . . help they need.” from http://www.anglicanprayer.org/docs/Prayers%20for%20Church%20Administrators.pdf