Picture in your mind the top management of where you work. A fine upstanding bunch no doubt. But now imagine them praying before a board meeting. Not as a religious ritual, but humbly and sincerely laying the organisation before God for him to fulfil his purposes through it.
Too unbelievable? Well try this one...
Think of your own department. The people you work with. Now imagine 'open heaven ' over you all. People getting saved every day, healings a regular occurrence and productivity soaring as people get their lives sorted out. Impossible dreams? Mindless spiritual escapism? Not according to our God who 'wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth' (2 Timothy 2:4).
I find those sort of scenes as hard to imagine as anyone. However, I have become convinced over the last few years that God wants Christians in workplaces to join together and pray them into being.
Prayer at work
A bit of personal background. I work in the Market Development department of a large plc. Around 1,000 staff work in my office in Gloucester, out of the total company workforce in the UK of some 5,000. We are a fairly typical set up, and have not escaped from the pressures and stresses of the modern workplace. A colleague, Steve Smith, and I started to pray together on a weekly basis in 1994, just a few weeks after we had both begun to be profoundly impacted by the fresh move of the Spirit that broke out in that year. And we have continued to pray together most weeks ever since. But soon after we started, we both felt that we should also commit ourselves to the office Christian Union. Having hardly attended in my first 10 years on site, for the last four years I have been secretary of that group.
The CU currently has an electronic mailing list of over 20, of which about 12 to 14,from a wide range of church backgrounds, are regulars at our Monday lunchtime meetings. And in the last 18 months particularly, we have seen a growing emphasis on prayer sparked off by a visit in January 2000 from one of our regular guest speakers, Dave Kelly. Dave has been a widely respected figure on the Gloucester Christian scene for as long as anyone can remember. For the last few years he has been the leader of City Gates church in the city. Recently this church has been active in coordinating local inter-church prayer and renewal initiatives, and has links with national and international prayer networks.
He spoke to just eight of us on that gloomy winter's day.However, together with him, we were a model of unity, representing eight different local churches and several different departments between us. Dave reminded us of who we are in Christ, and that as new creations, carrying the light of Christ, we are his ambassadors with the potential to be very effective in bringing about change. When we unite in the place where we are (nation, city, street, workplace etc) in prayer and witness, great things can happen and transformation can come.
The message hit home,and after that lunchtime we decided to extend our meeting length in order to incorporate regular prayer times for the company and our personal contacts in it. And within weeks, we had initiated a voluntary lunchtime office prayer-walking rota. During the next couple of months our growing emphasis on prayer was also encouraged by an onsite showing of the amazing Transformations video and a visit from Livingstone Wagaba, an intercessor from Uganda.
Making a start
We are fortunate in my office in having a long-established CU that comes under the umbrella of the company Sports & Social Club. And we receive further support from being linked in with the national support organisation 'Christians at Work'. But what can you do if you are the only believer in your organisation? Lots. The first thing obviously is pray for another Christian to join your organisation, or for a hidden Christian to emerge. But while you are waiting for a break- through on this front you can still pray for your colleagues, for their spiritual eyes to be opened, and for opportunities.
These could include, opportunities to be encouraging, to show care and concern, to be supportive, to be positive and to witness,among others. It's also a good idea to focus your prayers for individuals on two or three of your colleagues who seem particularly open to the gospel.
There is also plenty of scope to pray for the organisation itself, and its management, and this could include:
- For God's call and redemptive purpose for the organisation to be fulfilled. Throughout history God has not only dealt with individuals but also with people groups, most notably with countries and cities. Each has a call,a destiny and a redemptive purpose. There is therefore a redemptive call on our people group - our company - that we can pray into.
- For your company to be founded on principles of fairness, integrity and social and environmental responsibility. And we can pray that our company is one that serves rather than exploits.
For Christians to be appointed to positions of influence, and for the existing management to act wisely and righteously. All people in authority in our workplace need our prayers since being a manager carries with it powerful spiritual authority, and he or she is therefore a bigger and more influential target for the enemy.
- For the organisation to prosper... '...that we live peaceful and quiet lives...' (1 Timothy 2:2).
It is also good to look to creative ways of praying,and these may include the following:
- Prayer walking
Literally praying for the office as you walk around it. 'I will give you every place where you set your feet...' (Joshua 1:3). When we prayer walk I believe we are 'taking the land' for the gospel..
- Laying hands on the building
Sounds weird? It ’s not really, it shows you mean business. We can impart a blessing on our workplace by touching the building and quietly claiming it for God as we enter it each morning.
- Praying for the gates
As people who pray,we are called to be the ‘gatekeepers ’of where we are. (See Isaiah 62).To practically demonstrate this we can regularly walk around the site and pray over every entrance to our workplace, keeping the enemy out and proclaiming God ’s blessing on those inside.
I believe another effective way of achieving the three points above is to lay hands on and pray for a map of our workplace, picking out the known troublespots and the entrances.
Someone who prays on his own for his workplace is Andy Brown. He works for a couple of small engineering companies in Gloucestershire and recently he told me: "One of the companies in which I am involved has two other Directors, neither of who are Christians, but with whom I have openly shared my faith. Things had not been going particularly well; until legal disputes had reached a conclusion, customers were understandably cautious about placing orders with us, and our reserves were getting depleted. Eventually, the stage was reached when, in desperation, the MD suggested that if I believed in prayer, now was the time to do it! I had always prayed for the success of the company, believing that God rewards those who are faithful in business, but I did then make a point of praying more consistently.
"It was just over a week later that we had a surprise communication, a Letter of Intent, that has subsequently been confirmed, from a prestige company with a contract large enough to provide a firm financial foundation for the immediate future. They also said they would be pleased to recommend the product to others. Even the unbelieving directors thanked God for this breakthrough, and I shall always have something with which I can remind them of God's ability to turn the impossible into a reality!"
If your are in a group,or you have recently set one up you can do all the above plus
- Pray for your fellow Christians in the same workplace. Believers also need our prayers,as the workplace is just as much the front line of the spiritual battle as anywhere else in the world. We all need prayer support to avoid being sucked into our company’s secular culture.
- Within the group you could encourage prayer partnerships or prayer triplets.
- You can also share bread and wine on a regular basis. This is a powerful demonstration of your unity,with enormous spiritual consequences.
- Also, it is a good idea to invite any Christian directors or senior managers in your organisation to one of your meetings to share with you and for you to pray for them directly.
Prayer has only been a big emphasis in our workplace CU since the early spring of 2000. It is difficult to scientifically analyse the results, particularly in terms of management decisions, since we obviously don't know what would have happened if we hadn't prayed. There are however some definite changes that can be identified.
- A lighter atmosphere in the office
As Amanda Tagg, one of the Christian Union recently put it, "there is more optimism. Even when the share price was falling and bad management announcements were being made there was none of the normal doom and gloom and people moaning in the corridors."
- A greater responsiveness to the gospel
Since Steve and I started praying regularly, two people in the office that we know of, have become Christians. This number has not yet been added to in the last year. However slowly, almost imperceptibly, there has been a general greater willingness for people to open up and talk about the gospel, or share prayer needs. And also, non-Christians, and the odd backslidden Christian have started to respond to invitations and come along to our Monday meetings.
- Answers to prayer
Three examples from many - One of the prayer walkers heard that a staff member was planning to bring in some Buddha statues to sell at work. A message was sent to the rest of the team and the sale never happened. Another time, when one of the prayer walkers was on her 'rounds' she asked that God would make the most unlikely people start to want to go to church. On returning to her desk some of her colleagues were having a conversation about church. A regular focus of Steve and my prayers is a particular backslidden Christian in the office. Recently he turned up at a meeting out of the blue.
- Christian Union growth
I cannot describe this any better than one of the CU, Kevin Elliott: “The most obvious way that the prayer initiative has worked is in the increase in numbers that have been seen over the last year, bucking the trend of decreasing staff numbers. I personally always valued my Monday lunchtimes at my desk,to catch up on personal letters and planning of Christian activities that I was involved with. I now make the CU the priority instead."
All the above is encouraging,but we still have a long way to go before our company could truly said to be transformed. But we are on the way,and intend to stick at it for the sake of the company and for all its employees who need to know God’s love in their lives. We are also aware that we are a very small part of a growing worldwide movement. I believe God is raising up prayer groups and networks for every community and every people group.
Dave Kelly emphasizes the global perspective: "It is a particular kind of prayer which I see increasing. It's lifestyle prayer - pray without ceasing must mean constant relationship/conversation/contact with God's heart. It's heart cry prayer - there is a new 'desperateness' for God to move and touch our nation big time. It's worship/relationship based prayer. I agree with Mike Bickle (Renewal October) that this move sees less issue-based prayer and more 'joining in with heaven'."
So,if you are not doing so already,join in the fun,join in with heaven - find your believing colleagues and get praying for your workplace to be transformed. One thing ’s for certain, God will be right there with you.