Songs for Work and Worship

There are no songs in my hymnal written for government contractors. At the church I formerly served in Washington, DC, as my first Labor Day weekend there approached, I wanted to plan a service focused on the “work of the people.” I was disappointed—but not at all surprised—that there was no specific language for this congregation’s specific vocation. The same was true for my colleague who served in Houston. There aren’t hymns for oil workers. The more I dug, the more I realized that the songs in most churches’ repertoires that are tangentially related to “work” refer mostly to farming. They speak of plowing fields, tilling soil, and cultivating growth. There are many churches, of course, where these words reflect the daily living of many of their congregants as they grow and produce the bounty that lands on our tables each day. But for those not directly involved in farming, work-related hymns are slim pickings.

That first Labor Day would turn into a second, and a third, and eventually a sixteenth before I took another call. In those years, I learned the importance of vocationally conversant language not only in preaching, but in liturgy and in song. Worship not only allows for honest recognition of our daily lives, but welcomes it. We hear God’s call to worship, and we respond with our fullest selves. We don’t fragment our lives and bring only that which is spiritual or deemed “appropriate” for church. But too often—and with good intentions—pastors and worship leaders make the mistake of welcoming people to worship by inviting them to leave behind their work weeks. Forget about the stress. Don’t think about what tomorrow will bring. This is a time to worship God.

What a missed opportunity! At God’s gracious invitation, we are welcomed to worship by the One who is present in our worship and in our daily lives. We are received by a God who not only cares about our week, but has been present with us throughout it. “Leaving it at the door” potentially rejects an integral part of ourselves and what God created us to be: image bearers and beloved children.

If we as leaders want to walk with congregations, to bridge the gap between Sundays, we need not only the tools, but the pastoral imagination to create something contextual. So, unless you’re a prolific hymn writer, it’s a matter of being creative with what’s already available. Below you will find a few songs with work-specific themes. Some of these might be familiar; some might be new. Each song is tied to a specific liturgical moment, and I’ll offer some suggestions on how to use it. There are many ways to frame a song well to address a worker’s daily life—but it does take practice, awareness, and a willingness to try.

Day by Day 


This beautiful, simple song names several vocations (farmer, lawyer, teacher, nurse) and blesses the work they are called to do so that God’s kingdom may come and on earth God’s will be done. The refrain “Lord, be close to us. Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, please put your hand on us day by day” could easily be sung by the congregation even if the rest of the song is not accessible. Consider having someone sing the verses and then include everyone on the refrain. Intersperse prayers specific to your congregation between refrains. If you have never tried naming specific vocations, this would be an easy way to begin. Here are some examples:

Prayers for Use with “Day by Day”

God, we praise you for the gift of accountants,
who work with the books to ensure equity and fairness. 
Their accuracy and intelligence blesses society’s systems 
in ways most of us never notice. 
God of numbers and order, 
we give you thanks for accountants. 

Sung refrain:
Lord, be close to us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, please put your hand on us day by day.

God, we praise you for the gift of plumbers, 
who make sure our buildings are sanitary and safe. 
Their expertise identifies problems 
and creates welcome solutions. 
God of well-working systems,
we give you thanks for plumbers. 

Sung refrain

God, we praise you for the gift of retirees, 
who bless us by their very presence—
with wisdom and support offered 
to family and community members 
and time given to prayer, 
for their volunteering roles, 
and their willingness to do tasks large or small
that bring you and others great delight. 
God, who created seasons of life and blessed them,
we give you thanks for retirees. 

Sung refrain

God, who calls each of us to be faithful day by day
as retirees, students, employers, employees, 
caregivers, or those who receive care, 
send your Holy Spirit to go before us,
and move in and through us 
so that God’s kingdom may come 
and on earth God’s will be done. 

—Katie Roelofs © 2024 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

Work Be Our Praise


Old tune, new text! Hunter Lynch has given us new words to sing to the familiar tune ASSURANCE, composed by Phoebe Knapp. This song works well for framing offerings or tithing. When COVID-19 shifted many of our churches to online-only giving, offerings became more of a monthly bill to pay instead of a meaningful and formative part of our worship services. We have forgotten the theological significance of bringing our firstfruits before the Lord as an offering and a gift. The concept of “firstfruits” has, of course, changed; we don’t bring livestock or baskets of produce into worship. But how can we preserve the idea that, as a grateful response to God’s word, we should offer to the Lord our very best? Imagine a time of offering in your service that includes bringing modern things to worship and offering them to God in thanksgiving. Imagine a pile of stethoscopes, briefcases, packing tape, laundry baskets, and homework, all signifying an offering of the work of our hands. 

If this song wouldn’t work in your context, how could you use some of the same language to write an offertory prayer? Consider adapting this prayer: 

An Offering Prayer 

Lord, we offer up our firstfruits and the work of our hands. 
In and through our daily work, may you be honored and glorified. 
Use these gifts of money. 
Use the skills you have equipped us with. 
We offer our lives in gratitude to you. 

—Katie Roelofs © 2024 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.

Audio recordings and other resources related to the songs in this article can be found at these websites by searching with the song title: 

“Day by Day,”
“Work Be Our Praise,”
“Before You I Kneel,” 
“Breastplate of Saint Patrick,”
• “Cloister Song: Steadfast Love,”

For the following resources related to work and worship go to and search with the article’s title in quotations. 

Reformed Worship:
“Prayers of the People for the Work of the People” 
“The Heart of Worship”
“Sunday’s Prayer and Monday’s Work” 
“The People Had a Mind to Work: A Service for the Sunday before Labor Day”
“Everyday Church-Iglesia Cotidiana” 

Worship for Workers:
Made to Flourish:
“Work and Worship: Reconnecting our Labor and Liturgy,” 
   by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson, © 2020, Baker Academic,


Before You I Kneel (A Worker’s Prayer)


Written by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Jeffrey J. Taylor, and Stuart Townend, this hymn artfully weaves the melody of “Sleepers, Awake!” throughout and is a wonderful song for a commissioning or dedication. Its flexibility makes it a useful addition to your church’s repertoire. You could use this for: 

  • an installation service of staff or church leaders.
  • blessing youth as they head back to school.
  • a service of anointing people’s hands and saying, “May God bless you and the work of your hands.” 

Prayer Calendar for Workers

Take inventory of your congregation’s professions and create a prayer calendar (I recommend the skill mapping tool made by our friends at Made to Flourish 
( Then put together a “commissioning calendar” around particularly significant times of the year for workers in your church, such as:

  • praying for mental health professionals near the winter solstice.
  • praying for firefighters near the anniversary of September 11 (or a similar significant event in your context).
  • praying for nurses on the anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic.
  • praying for your accountants during tax season.
  • praying over university students before exams.

Be intentional about praying over your people’s work and daily living—and include “Before You I Kneel” when you can! Having a violin or flute play the introduction makes this song especially lovely. 

Breastplate of Saint Patrick


Some congregations have grown more adept at offering regular prayers of lament. Others need on-ramps to begin using this essential prayer language. Many in your church have positive work experiences. They generally like their jobs. They feel satisfied and receive a paycheck that covers the bills. But that certainly is not the case for everyone. Are you giving your congregation words with which to lament the painful and challenging parts of their daily lives, including their work? Think about the unemployed and those who are unable to make ends meet. Think about the parishioner who was laid off or passed over for a promotion they deserved. Think about the foreign service officer whose entire week was spent dealing with a humanitarian crisis overseas. These are worthy of lament, not only individually, but corporately. Corporate worship and corporate prayer are covenantal reminders that we are part of the body of Christ. Teach your congregation to pray for and lament with one another in the midst of challenges and pain.

This powerful song by Wendell Kimbrough and Dan Wheeler, centered around the Lorica of Saint Patrick, gracefully holds in tension our laments and hopes. The text allows us to express sorrow, frustration, and disappointment, but then covers those emotions with the “promise of God that I’m never alone.” This song is easy to sing, and I guarantee it will run through your head throughout the week when you least expect it. It can be sung as a call and response, with the congregation directly quoting Saint Patrick. For all the joys and challenges, what a grace to put these words on people’s lips: “Christ above me, Christ beneath me, Christ behind, and Christ before.”

Cloister Song


Ora et labora—pray and work. The songs I’ve included here all help workers bring their daily living into worship and offer it to God in grateful prayer. What are some other ways that Sunday’s worship can carry over into Monday’s work? Has your church spent time developing spiritual practices that help people continue worshiping and being mindful of God’s presence long after they leave the church building? Are there familiar short songs or refrains in your repertoire that are easy to learn, easy to remember, and accessible to all ages? How might you give people ways to weave one of these simple songs into their workdays prayerfully and intentionally? Could you develop a way to “pray the hours” using these songs?

Praying the Hours in Song

The simple “Cloister Song” uses Psalm 90 as a framework for praying the hours (morning, daytime, evening). It could be introduced in worship and woven into corporate prayers, and the text could go home with members on small cards to keep in prominent locations such as a desk, a dashboard, a bathroom mirror, or a bedside table.

Invite people to intentional moments of prayer throughout the day. You could use a song you already know and love, or you could write a short refrain of your own! The goal is to give words that will continue to come to mind and draw people to prayer and a recognition of God’s presence—God with us.


Regardless of the work your congregants do, vocationally-conversant worship is not out of reach. Worship leaders can beautifully contextualize worship practices to speak to the daily realities congregants face during their work weeks. Write down three songs your congregation already knows and sings well. How could you use a spoken introduction or scripture to frame these songs so that they communicate a message that will reverberate far beyond the sanctuary walls? What short sentence will encourage worshipers to recognize God’s presence in their work, school, and home contexts from Sunday to Saturday? These kinds of small changes are like planted seeds: they’re almost unrecognizable at first, but with patient nurturing, they grow and flourish.

Kathryn Ritsema Roelofs is a commissioned pastor in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and serves as a worship specialist with Thrive, a ministry of the CRC. She is also the managing director of the Worship for Workers project through Fuller Seminary. 

Reformed Worship 152 © June 2024, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.