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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

God and Business: an Opportunity for Prayer

When Christians gather, as we do here, they frequently begin their time together with prayer. And so do we. This next week is even a recognized Prayer Book occasion for our purpose: lifting up business and our work. The Sunday, Easter VI, is often called Rogation Sunday. The three weekdays following are "Rogation Days". Traditionally, many of us have been familiar with these days as the time for farmers and fishermen to pray for God's blessing on the crops and the boats. Along with prayers for that intention, the Prayer Book includes one "For commerce and industry". Below, after this introduction, we'll pray it here.

The compilers of the current Prayer Book had great insight as they broadened the scope of Rogation Days. Modern society, of course, is no longer centered on agriculture and fishing. So this can now be a time to ask ("rogare" = Latin for "to ask") God's blessing on all our work. Moreover, we not only can do this, we ought to do it. God is already and always present with us in our workplaces as well as in our homes and churches. We are perhaps too caught up in the busy-ness of our business to notice. More, just as in agriculture and fishing, God really stands behind whatever we are able to accomplish in our work. From the churches' point of view, all the tangible and financial resources they have to use in implementing their ministry come from the production of business and industry.

Kenneth Adams, writing some years ago in The Church Times, puts this very directly:

"We pray for good relationships in industry and for the just distribution of the fruits of the earth, but we do not pray for that activity which is the reason for the existence of those relationships and which produces the 'fruits' which we pray maybe justly distributed.

"We pray for what flows from industrial production without praying for industry itself and for all those who engage in it. We pray for the unemployed, but we fail to pray for the activity which will provide them with employment or which will produce the surplus wealth to allow them to be employed in other work."

"We pray for the hungry and the homeless, yet we fail to pray for the better industrial production which alone will produce the food and build the houses. We are glad that we can give grain to the starving people of Africa, but do we give thanks to God for those who produced that grain and for those who designed and manufactured the ships and aircraft and vehicles without which that grain could never have been delivered to those who need it?"

These comments are cited, in turn, by Canon J. Fletcher Lowe, Jr. in The Living Church. Canon Lowe's article also includes some inspiring liturgical commemorations and appropriate hymns for Rogation Sunday. Some of his points about the real-world ramifications of attributing a spiritual element to work bear greater exploration, and we will revisit this commentary. In the meantime, it is available on the National Church website, under the auspices of the Office for Ministry Development. Find it at

Finally, all this said, we cannot forget the original purpose of the Rogation experience. We are dependent on God for our food. Period. And while agriculture now accounts for a minuscule portion of American jobs and American production, we would be totally lost without it. We still need to pray for the crops and the boats. And so we shall (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 258-259):

I. For fruitful seasons:
Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly receiving good things from your hand, may always give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II. For commerce and industry
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your people where they work; make those who carry on the industries and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

And a hymn, No. 611*:

"Christ the worker, Christ the worker, born in Bethlehem,
born to work and die for every one.

Blessed manchild, blessed manchild, boy of Nazareth,
grew in wisdom as he grew in skill.

Skillful craftsman, skillful craftsman, blessed carpenter,
praising God by labor at his bench.

Yoke maker, yoke maker, fashioned by his hands,
easy yokes that made the labor less.

All who labor, all who labor, listen to his call,
he will make that heavy burden light.

Heavy laden, heavy laden, gladly come to him,
he will ease your load and give you rest.

Christ the worker, Christ the worker, Love alive for us,
teach us how to do all work for God."


*From The Hymnal 1982
Words: Ghanaian work song
Music: "African Work Song". All copyright 1969 by Hope Publishing Company.

Additional source: Price & Weil, Liturgy for Living: the Church's Teaching Series. The Seabury Press. 1979.


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